Re Rustica

  (Squaw Valley, California)
love your food!
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Almost Spring?

When we're looking for summer, we head down the mountain.  When we look for winter, we head up hill.  The increase in altitude leads to a decrease in temperature - there is less atmosphere to hold in heat!  In Squaw Valley, the difference is pronounced.  We own and rent land in the area, and our rental field - just down the street - is more than 1000 feet lower!  It's been spring there for about a month, and now it is just starting to be spring up on top of the hill.  Down in the valley, it is more than 2300 feet lower than it is at our camp on top of the mountain.  It's mid summer there!

Changes in altitude are one thing, but changes in latitude are another.  Going north means going colder, and going south means getting warmer (until you get to the equator, that is).

It is important to stagger fields north and south, uphill and down hill if you want to supply similar foods all year long.  Spring has come and gone in the Valley, but is still coming up in the hills.  On the plate, it's spring, spring, spring!  Summer is also easily found.  So is winter!

The nomadic farmer is not a new thing under the sun.  The Egyptians invented the technique, boating up and down the Nile, hiking up and down the hills.  The Egyptians even went so far as to bring their bees from pasture to pasture, increasing their honey production: some farms today still do this today, trucking bees from Colorado's Western Slope to California's Central Valley with the change in seasons.

Back in ancient days, bee spills would happen as much as in modern days.  But then, there's an argument for sedentary farming.

Mighty Quail

Every morning, one of our neighbors (a nice couple of Quails) steps out for their promenade.  Mr. and Mrs. Quail live in our fence, which is not your usual barbed wire contraption.  It is a lean-to of large tree branches and small sticks, and resembles a very long dead tree, or perhaps a dead bush.  It is ideal habitat for quail, rodents, and other critters that don't like to be bothered at night by large predators.

Of course, the foxes love the fence too.  They and the coyotes and bobcats can easily pass through and over, but find it difficult to hunt in the fence.  They commute to work in our fields through the fence daily.

But, in the morning, the fence belongs to Mr. Quail, who gives it to his Mrs.  He climbs atop the tallest post and bellows out his territorial call while Mrs. Quail admires him from below, singing encouragement to him.  He then invites her up to see the view, and know that it is hers.  They then go about their work.

We love all the wild animals - they care for our fields, and their company presents that "universal sympathy" so expounded upon by the naturalist Enos Mills.  They remind us of our place in this world, and - with our customers - the reason why we farm.


March from Water

Recently while on deliveries, we noticed a farmer in the valley who was carrying on a trailer a sign bearing the message that water was essential for farms.  We didn't get the chance to talk with him - he was going the other direction at more than a mile per minute - but we had to laugh when we imagined his impression of the beautiful farms of the desert, or of those so-called "less fortunate" farms without water.


While it is true that water is necessary in most of California for the most popular foods in demand, it is important to remember that water is not needed for food itself.  Many wild plants and fungi grow without any help from human hands that are edible, nutritous staples of the human diet, delicious treats, energy, fiber and medicine.  Many animals grow - without help from human hands - that produce necessary fiber, food, medicine, treats and draft power. 


It is inconcievable to suppose that huamnity would have thrived so long and so well on this planet if there was not enough food to do so, and a sin to doubt that the good earth cannot continue to provide for our needs.  As one of our customers pointed out to us ina discussion on the subject, "it is our own fault if we are hungry in this world of plenty." 


Farmers depend on others for their livelihood.  We depend on our laborers to work hard, we depend on our customers to tell us what they want.  But we also depend on either nature for water - or upon our government.  That the drought is causing so much concern among farmers for water demonstrates that they have not only sinned by fearing for their customers' hunger, but that they are dependent upon unnatural governmental action for their water.


At every meal before we eat, we take a moment to remember that all things are given to those who need them when they are needed most.  Though we do enjoy our cabbages - a water loving plant - we also enjoy our dandelions, our dates, our oats, our beans, our squashes... the innumerable other things that require less or no water. 


We take a moment to remember that irrigation improves yields of these foods, but is not necessary for their production, and that the total production is not incresaed more than the value of that water.  Even if we had access to subsidized water from a ditch (our well would not be subsidized by taxpayers), it still would not change the basic fact that the water is not producing more food than it is worth.  The water belongs to the river and the city, as the farmer does: the farmer serves their nation by protecting natural resources and providing food to their neighbors.


It is this unwillingness to serve nature and their neighbors that has led to this agricultural crisis.  Do we continue to produce oranges when there is no water to do so, when other fruits are more wholesome?  Do we listen to our customers when they - out of ignorance - demand that which would strip their children's children of a great inheritance? 


Many farmers say yes.  They carry signs.  They are terrified to produce against market demand, afraid that their customers will buy somewhere else.  They are terrified that if they do the right thing they will be punished. 


We at Re Rustica are now at a crisis of our own.  How can we produce those foods which endanger our water resources?  How can we afford the risk of our customers preferring to buy from those farms which would not look after the earth as much as the market demand? 


And our customers are in crisis too: the desert's foods, while less expensive, are less demanded for lack of familiarity.  The customers simply don't know they want them - when would they have tried them?  How can the customer risk trying them - supporting a farm with their limited money - when they don't even know they will like what they buy?


Together we stand in the sin of doubt, the correct path laid before us, waivering as if there was reason for confusion.  Drought will destroy us if we choose wrongly or hesitate too long.


As we write this, our coyote friend - who hunts in our fields - is playing friendfully with our geese.  After a long time of distrust, they have come to terms of friendship.  Through our help there is plenty of good food for the coyote, and our geese have no reason to fear him.  We work along side him - though he is not tame.  By confronting our fears, our courage earns us greater rewards than we could have imagined.


And so we ask you, our customers and friends and our fellow farmers, how can we lead each other towards what we must do?  We, on our part, provide free samples of desrt foods and foods that need less water (though they are not asked for, we do provide them periodically to our customers).  When we occasionally and radomly follow up as to why they are not ordered again, it is because they are not the foods they are familiar with.


How can we work together to ensure that there will never again be a drought crisis?  To ensure that farmers never need to fear for lack of water?  How can we bring these foods to be an essential part of the daily diet?  These foods are loveable and nutritious, enjoyed throughout other parts of the world.  Why can't they be enjoyed here?


Nature Provides All We Need

Food can have amazing effects on you.  Some foods make you happy, others make you sad, some make you healthy, others can kill you.  Some foods make you hallucinate, others clarify your mind.  Food is a magical thing, and it is important to remember that - as enjoyable as the daily meals are - they are important to your mind, body and soul.

What we eat we eat for pleasure, but also for nutrition.  We balance our diet upon the reccomendations of nutritionists, following the USDA food pyramid religiously.  A varied diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, oils and sugars is so important to us - the "treats" at the top of the pyramid no less so than the "staples" on bottom.  How could we go a day without delicious beans? Or skimp on our favorite olive oil?  Our oats are as important as our fruits and nuts and veggies. 

Every once in a while, we don't feel well.  Or perhaps a friend doesn't feel well.  We give them some foods to make them better.  It's magic: eating the right food can make you strong!

Nature provides for our needs by giving to us at the right time those things we need most.  In the autumn we recieve our oils, our heavy carbohydrates, our foods we need to hold us through winter.  In winter, we feast upon the bounty of autumn, but also seek out those vitamin and mineral rich trees and berries nature preserved for us to find.  Digging through the snow, we find joy for our plates: the ruby red rosehip is a treasure for the palate.  In the spring, the taraxacum and the other spring greens and roots give us the health to make the most of summer's bounty.

When we are overborne by the weariness of the world, we make a special and interesting dinner.  Nature already makes sure we vary our diet, keeping our love for natural foods alive with constant and pleasant surprises.  Nature cares for our needs, and provides for us.

As farmers, we work with nature.  We help those plants that are our friends grow bigger and stronger, so that those friends we feed them to are made stronger still.  We give our friendship to the birds that lay our eggs.

By providing food and shelter to all the animals of our world, we fear no hardship.  The coyotes leave our birds alone to hunt rabbits in our fields, singing us beautiful songs at night. The foxes eat grasshoppers.  The worms, ants and various insects tend our crops.  Life is not spent at leisure, but upon completing that most essential job that none of the animals can do:

the love of all living creatures.


the Duck named Rooster

The duck named “Rooster” thinks that he is a chicken. He was raised with two hens and, when we adopted the three friends at the shelter, was quite confused. He takes good care of his hens, making sure they find ponds to bathe in (though they don’t want to bathe in the water - they prefer dust baths - he pushes them in). He finds them good things to eat and then eats them himself to demonstrate that they are good, urging them to join him with his “tasty” call, which they do not understand. He herds them about with his mallardly mastery using words and gestures they understand as well as those used by real roosters. He also sits on their eggs and defends them.

His inability to communicate with his hens is a problem, but nothing so severe as to break his love for each other. They are his hens and he is their rooster - er, duck.

He also take care of the other chickens. He has a special friendship with Scuttle and will treat him like a hen. Ducks can’t tell the difference easily between roosters and hens.

We love “Rooster” almost as much as the hens and real roosters do. He stands guard at night over the entire flock like a rooster ought to, taking shifts with Rodney and Scuttle (the other roosters are too tired to take a shift). Like a rooster, he sings them songs to let them know everything’s alright, or alert them that something strange is happening. He announces when we come by, and a few of the chickens stagger up to us to see if we’ve brought them a treat.

Any time two species make friendship or love each other, they learn how to talk to each other or otherwise serve each others’ needs. When humans adopt a pet, either domesticating a wild critter or taking in a domestic one, we teach them some of our language so they can help us, too.

All our birds know how to “go home,” “find your rooster,” “hide,” and “come to the coop!” We teach them several dozen commands. Some are very friendly, and enjoy being picked up. Because, when they are young, we help them if they are injured in front of the entire baby flock, they know to come to us when they need help.

Yesterday, some of our geese got attacked by a coyote. The coyote lost, and now looks for mice to eat, but one of the geese got a scratch on her leg. She ran up to us and wanted to be held, so we told her to give us her leg for us to inspect. We told her it was alright and gave her some treats. She rested for most of the day, and her flock kept her company.

Like our “Rooster” duck, all animals understand more words of another species’ language than they can speak. Though we could not express ourselves in “goose” we could express ourselves in english, and she understood, giving us her leg and holding still. She could tell us something was wrong with her and we understood. The duck can tell his hens about the joys of bathing and… well, perhaps some things can’t be understood.


Born to be Bad

Rodney, our current Head Rooster, dances well, sings well, is courteous to his hens and minor roosters, and even finds and shares good things to eat.  He defends them against hawks and coyotes, and teaches younger birds where to lay eggs, what to eat, important resources and - most recently - has taken the former head rooster, Scuttle, under his wing.

Scuttle dances bad.  Real bad.  He puts the wrong wing out and steps wrong.  He rapes hens, mating them without courtship.  He sings poorly.  He steals food from younger birds.  He leads hens off into the bushes where kitties like to hunt and leaves them there.  He runs up to other birds, pecks them between the eyes and runs away.  He hides up in trees, jumps down and scares the other birds. 

He is a bad rooster.

But he doesn't want to be bad.  He just doesn't know better.  He was raised without other roosters, with no role models.  Rodney is teaching him.  Lesson by lesson, Scuttle is learning how to sing, how to treat his hens with respect, how to do the jobs required of him.  He's even got the right (er, left) wing out.  Sometimes.

At least he's not feeding his hens to the kitties anymore.


Hear and See the Geese Explore

Some like to lead, others like to follow, everyone looks about and shares what they see!  What a great trip...

Some like to lead, others like to follow, everyone looks about and shares what they see! What a great trip...

Click here to hear the geese explore!

The geese explore to find new delicious things to eat, interesting animals to hiss and honk at, nice places to nap and to find us. Occassionally, they’ll show us their find!

Domesticated animals differ from wild animals in one key respect: domestic animals (usually) have no wanderlust. They do not take vacations. Wild animals will take vacations to explore new territory in case their current territory is rendered unusuable by disaster, to find new resources to exploit (expand their territory), to learn from other animals (even of other species) and for the pleasure of some exercise and play. The naturalist Enos Mills once took a vacation from his Rocky Mountain home only to discover upon reaching his destination that his neighbor bear had decided to vacation to the same spot! They looked at each other and recognized each other (the bear’s missing toe and particular coloration and Mr. Mill’s distinctive appearance were giveaways). The bear was friendly with Mr. Mills and they greeted each other and played, and then went their separate ways home.

Our geese don’t take vacations, but they do like to come out on their promenade. They’ll go this way and that, and always explore the same way: in a double file line, with every goose looking about them and describing (in honks, hisses and visual language) what they are seeing. Some like to lead, others like to follow, and their merry train makes its way through the flowers.


Hawk Alarm!

The chickens were making this noise (click on the link below to hear it) and we instantly knew that high above us was at least one hawk.


The chickens instantly ran to their nearest rooster, knocking over the water jugs set out for them, running into walls and, in their terror, even flying into us! Rodney and Scuttle have been, recently, battling to become head rooster and each was giving the head-rooster hawk alarm call, nervously running here and there, checking on all the lesser roosters and the hens in their watch. The lesser roosters behaved well: they herded their hens next to trees, the truck, their coop, buildings and whatever tall object they could find that would make it difficult for a hawk to swoop down and sieze one of the hens.

We got a picture of these hens with Patrick, our Rhode Island Red Rooster:

The hens sought whatever rooster was closest, knocking water jugs about, running into walls - and us.  These hens felt safe with Patrick, who led them next to the coop for safety.

The hens sought whatever rooster was closest, knocking water jugs about, running into walls - and us. These hens felt safe with Patrick, who led them next to the coop for safety.

It’s clear who the hens and lesser roosters trust more, though: Scuttle gave the “all clear” signal for minutes before Rodney, but when Rodney sang “all clear,” the hens immediately relaxed and went about their business. This is due, in part, to Rodney’s good manners and courtesy: he dances and sings well, he greets all the hens and lesser roosters politely, he never mates the hens without their permission, he never is punitive with the lesser roosters whom he battles and wins against. Scuttle is as uncourteous as he is uncouth, and though he is twice Rodney’s size, Rodney is easily able to beat him in battles defact of his courage. Rodney is brave enough to be head rooster, and the other birds know it.

The hawks, for their part, were entirely disinterested in the chickens, having spotted a family of rabbits long before. They were stalking the rabbits since early in the morning, waiting for them to come out. However, our watchful roosters knew that as the hawk swooped wider and wider in a gambit to lure the rabbits out, if the hawk lost interest in the bunnies, chicken might be on the menu.

Good job to all the roosters!


Farming in Tents

We make sure all the animals and plants - wild and domestic - on our farm have enough food and shelter to be happy and healthy.  When they're sick (wild or domestic) we take care of them, get them the rest and medicine they need - usually special diets cure most disease - and otherwise do our best to be kind to them.

Every once in a while we have to take a moment to remember those often neglected and important animals that also live on our farm - us!

Today we got a brand new sleeping tent.  It's a Coleman "Trailblazer" and it seems real nice.  We got it on sale because the paper on the box was scratched up, sending it to the surplus outlet store.  We didn't mind.  We'll let you know how we like it and how it compares to our other tents. 

Since we're setting it up today, here's a picture from the website,

We practice in-tent-sive farming (intensive farming)....  oh, that was a terrible pun.  No more puns!

For those readers new to this blog or who don't know us yet, we're "intense" (get it, "in-tents?") people (with no shame of using puns).  Don't worry, that'll be the last pun in this blog.

Tents are wonderful alternatives to houses or caves.  When we lived in Colorado, it wasn't uncommon to drive or boat along the mountain rivers and see all the cave dwellers.  Some were multimillion dollar mansions, others were primative things inhabited by wild people.  Of course, when driving around on deliveries, we would see all kinds of houses too: some were multimillion dollar mansions, others were little more than shacks.

But it wasn't until we came to California that we noticed other people living in tents.  Here, it is much more common: there are multi-thousand dollar yurts for the wealthy, there are rags strung up on poles for the poor.  No matter how expensive, tents will have all the conveniences of a house, and more conveniences than a cave.

Caves require water and light to be brought in, but require little heat and cooling.  Fire (burning gas, wood, oil, wax, or other fuel) or electricity are used for the light and heat.  Water is either brought in with pumps and pipes or is bucketed in.

With houses, water and light are also needed.  So is heat and cooling, if the house is not constructed well.  Water is pumped or bucketed in, and light is usually brought in by way of electricity or fire places and candles.  No cave torches here, please!

Tents require light in the night, and this is provided by candles, electric lanterns or an external fire.  Heat is provided by gas, electricity, or fire.  Some high-end tents have furnaces, but we use a space heater because we decided it was simply not cost effective to have a $5,000 dollar furnace when a $50 space heater would do the same job: the furnace might last 25 years, but even if we went through 2 heaters per year, we'd only spend $2,500.

Tents are more ecologically friendly than houses, requiring no wood lumbered or stone mined.  We do use some wood in our tent as a floor, but console ourselves that we did not kill even one full tree for our floor, and that the wood we bought came from farmed forests.  The stones in the retaining wall we have as landscaping about our sleeping tent came from our fields and needed no mining. 

Some high end tents are works of art: painted with murals and decorated with pretty stones, gold woven into the fabric's tapestry.  Our tent is made with space-age nylon and is water-repellant, sturdy enough to handle the Sierra snows. 

Tents are more clean than houses or caves.  A house gets mold between its walls, and the wood or stone eventually gets dirty.  A cave is nearly impossible to clean well without lots of scrubbing.  The cloth of our home is easily washable, and when the furniture is removed, it can be turned inside out and made very clean.  Some tents are made of wood fabric that cannot be laundered, but these panels are often replaced periodically for less cost than equivilant house cleaning or repair.

Tents are more affordable than houses and more available than caves.  Almost all the best caves are always occupied - if not by people, than by the bears, lions, bats, raccoons and other critters that like caves.  You'd be hard pressed to construct even a modular home for less than $75,000 these days, but a "mobile" home can be acquired for $10,000.  The most expensive and elaborate Yurt we could find (excepting those works of art imported from Asia) costed $9,000, and included a sauna, indoor toilet and bedroom, complete with electrical wiring and plumbing pre-installed.  that's a bit better than a mobile home!

The upkeep on a house is expensive in time and money, but tents require little work.  At $80, our modest tent could be replaced every year for less than what some of our extended family pays for basic house repair in the same period.


We have used many brands of tents in the past, but usually stick with REI and Coleman.  We use tents for some of our mushrooms, for some of our sprouts, for storage of valuables, for everything that needs a home like we do.  Our greenhouse is a tent!  We love tents.

Some of our neighbors continue to kindly offer their houses and their mobile homes to us, believing that tents are inferior living environments.  This is truly the spirit of America, and the generosity that made our nation great: these good people would offer their homes to their neighbor! 

But now that we have had a chance to think about it, we'll out-do them: we'll offer them a tent!

If anyone wants to try out tenting, we welcome you to our farm for a night, a few days, or as long as you like.  It's wonderful.


A Conversatin with John Muir

An old, beautiful tree is axed to make way for saplings.

An old, beautiful tree is axed to make way for saplings.

Click here to listen to the axing.

We were cutting down a beautiful tree at sunset when, out of the woods and out of time, John Muir approached our camp. We were glad to see him, and stopped our work and offered him some dinner - which was gladly accepted.

In the conversation that followed, he tried to tell us not to cut down any more trees.

The forests of America must have been a great delight to God, for they were the best he ever planted. The whole continent was a garden, and from teh beginning it seemed to be favored above all the other wild parks and gardens of the globe. To prepare the ground, it was rolled and sifted in seas with infinite loving deliberation and forethought, lifted into the light, submerged and warmed over and over again, pressed and crumpled into foldds and ridges, mountains and hills, subsoiled with heaving volcanic fires, ploughed and ground and sculptured into scneery and soil with glaciers and rivers - every rfeature growing and changing from beauty to beauty, higher and higher…Everywhere, everywhere over all the blessed continent, there were beauty and melody and kindly, wholesome foodful abundnace…

These forests were composed of about 500 species of trees, all of them in some way useful to man, ranging in size from 25 feet in height and less than one foot in diameter at the ground to 400 feet in height and more than 20 feet in diameter - lordly monarchs proclaiming the gospel of beauty like apostles…Widebranching oak and elm in endless variety, walnut and maple, chestnut and beech, ilex and locust, thouching limb to limb, spread a leafy translucent canopy alng the coast of the Atlantic over the wringkled folds and ridges of the Alleghenies…

To the southward stretched dark, level-opped cypresses in knobby, tangled swamps, grassy savannas in the midst of them like laks of light, groves of gay, sparkling spice-trees, magnolias and palms… To the northward over Maine and Ottawa rose hosts of spiry, rosiny evergreens - white pine and spruce, hemlock and cedar, shoulder to shoulder, laden with purple cones, their myriad needles sparkling and shimering….beaver meadows filled with lillies and grass…

Thence westward were oak and elm, hickory and tupelo, gum and liridendron, sassafras and ash, linden and laurel, spreading on ever wider in glorious exuberance over the great fvertile basin of the Mississippi, over damp level bottoms, low dimpling hollows, and round dotting hills, embosoming sunny prairies and cheery park openings, half sunshine, hafl shade, while a darkw ilderness of pines covered the region around the Great Lakes. Thence still westward swept the forests to right and left around grassy plains and deserts a thousand miles wide: irrepressible hosts of spruce and pine, aspen and willow, nut-pine and juniper, cactus and yucca, caring nothing for drought, extending undaunted from mountain to mountain, over mesa and desert, to join the darkening multitudes of pines that covered the high Rocky ranges and the glorious forests along the coast of the moist and balmy Pacific, where new species of pine, giant cedars and spruces, silver firs and Sequoias, kings of their race, growing close together like grass in a meadow, poised their brave domes and spires in the sky, 300 feet above the ferns and lilies that enameled the ground…

Hence they went wavering northward over icy Alaska, brave spruce and fir, poplar and birch, byt he coasts and the rivers, to within sight of the Arctic Ocean. American forests! Glory of the world!


…The Indians with stone axes could do them no more harm than could gnawing beavers and browsing moose. Even the fires of the Indians and the fierce shattering lightning seemed to work together only for good in clearing spots here and there for smooth garden prairies, and openings for sunflowers seeking the light. But when the steel axe of the white man rang out on the startled air their doom was sealed. Every tree heard the bodeful sound, and pillars of smoke gave the sign in the sky.

I suppose we need not go mourning the buffaloes. In the nature of things they had to give place to better cattle, though the change might have been made without barbarous wickedness. Likewise many of Nature’s 500 kinds of wild trees had to make way for orchards and cornfields. In the settlement and civilizaiton of the country, bread more than timber or beauty was wanted; and in the blindness of their hunger, the early settlers, claiming Heaven as their guide, regarded God’s trees as only a larger kind of pernicious weed, extremely hard to get rid of…these pious destroyers waged interminable forest wars; chips flew thick and fast, trees in their beauty fell crashing by millions, smashed to confusion, and the smoke of their burning has been rising to heaven more than 200 years. After the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia had been mostly cleared and scorched into melancholy ruins, the overflowing multutde of bread and money seekers poured over the Alleghenies into the middle west…over the rich valley of the Mississippi and the vast shadowy pine region about the Great Lakes. Thence still westward, the invading horde of destroyers called settlers made its firey way over the broad Rocky Mountains, felling and burning more fiercely than ever, until at last it had reached the wild side of the continent, and entered the last of the great aboriginal forests ont eh shores of the Pacific…

But the protection to be offered to the last remaining forests were circumvented by corrupt politicians, and by greedy citizens.


Uncle Sam is not often called a fool in business matters, yet he has sold millions of acres of timber land at $2.50 an acre on which a single tree was worth more than $100. But this priceless land has been patented, and nothing can be done now about the crazy bargain…The trees are felled, and about half of each giant is left on teh ground to be converted into smoke and ashes; the better half is sawed into choice lumber and sold to citizens of the US or to foreigners: thus robbing the country of its glory and impoverishing it without right benefit to anybody - a bad, black buisiness from beginning to end….

We were not astonished, and told him so. We told him we knew that the great open plains were not always so, and wondered if he saw it happen.

The redwood is one of the few conifers that sprout from the stump and roots, and it declares itself willing to begin immediately to repair the damage of lumberman and also that of the forest-burner. As soon as the redwood is cut down or burned it sends up a crowd of eager, hopeful shoots, which, if allowed to grow, would in a few decades attain a height of a hundred feet, and teh strongest of them would finally become giants as great as the original tree. Gigantic second and third growth trees are found in the redwoods, forming magnificent temple-like circles around charred ruins more than 1000 years old. But not one denuded acre in a hundred is allowed to raise a new forest growth. On the contrary, all the brains,r eligion and superstition of the neighborhood are brought into play to prevent new growth. The sprouts from the roots and stumpsare cut off again and again, with zealous concern as to the best time and method of making death sure…these vigorous, almonst immortal, trees are killed at last, and black stumps are now their only monuments over most of the chopped and burned areas.

But John, a hundred years later, and not even the stumps remain! John told us that lumberjacks were not the only ones to kill trees.

In most mills, only the best portions of the best trees are used, while the ruins are left on the ground to feed great fires, which kill much of what is left of the less desirable timber, together wtih the seedlings, on which the permanence of the forest depends…The same thing is true of the mines, which consume and destroy indirectly immense quantities of timber with their innumerable fires, accidental or set to make open ways, and often without regard to how far they run…Sheep-owners and their shepherds also set fires everywhere through the woods in teh fall to facilitate the march of their countless flocks next summer, and perhaps in some places to improve pasturage…the sheep consume every green leaf, not sparing even the young conifers, when they are in a starving condition…and rake and dibble the loose soil of the mountain sides for the spring floods to wash away, and thus leave the ground barren.

John told us how those who killed the trees then found work killing the wildlife as hunters, and then as farmers, about his hopes that the new tourists for the newly formed National Parks and Forests would save the wilderness.

By the moonlight, we showed him around our farm, and told him that the little acorns escaped the terror, but not much else did. Now the forest was wholly oak, and we needed to make room for the other 499 kinds of trees again. He smiled and told us we were doing a good thing.

Those trees you plant will be useful, providing good food to you and your customers. They will improve the mountainside and all the world. Trees make rain and rivers, and will do much for the drought.

In their natural condition or under wise management, keeping out destructive sheep, preventing fires, selecting the trees that should be cut for lumber, and preservign the young ones and teh shrubs and sod of herbaceous vegetation, these forests would be a never failing fountain fo wealth and beauty. The cool shades of the forest give rise to moist beds and currents of air, and the sod of grasses and the various flowering plants and shrubs thus forstered together with the network and sponge of tree roots, absorb and hold back the rain and the waters from melting snow, compelling them to ooze and percolate and flow gently through the soil in streams that enver dry. All the pine needles and rootless and blades of grass, and the fallen, decaying trunks of trees, are dams, storing the bounty of the clouds and dispensing it in perennial life-giving streams, instead of allowing it to gather in short-lived devestating floods. The outcries we hear against forest reservations come mostly from thieves who are wealthy and steal timber by wholesale. hey have so long been allowed to steal and destroy in peace that any impediment to forest robbery is denounced as a cruel and irreligious interference with vested rights, likely to endanger the repose of all ungodly welfare.

John shook his head, and sang an old tune,

Gold, gold, gold! How strong a voice that metal has!

We then shook our heads. We told John about the man we met who would have robbed us for $0.75, and asked him for guidance: when people are willing to do wrong for so little, what protection do we have when so much is at stake?

Even in Congress a sizable chunk of gold, carefully concealed, will outtalk and outfight all the nation ona subject like forestry, well smothered in ignorance, and in which the money interests of only a few are conspicuously involved. Under these circumstances, the bawling, blethering oratorical stuff drowns the voice of God himself. Yet the dawn of a new day in forestry is breaking. Honest citizens see that only the right sof the government are being trampled, not those of settlers…The people will not always be decieved by selfish opposition, whether from lumber and mining corporations or from sheepmen and prospectors, however cunningly brought forward underneath fables and gold.

But John, the lies of sheepmen and cattlemen, miners and loggers, and those of corrupted politicians have won! People no longer remember there were forests, and under the motivation of ecological protection, seek to keep the earth naked and in a state of shame.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed - chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. During a man’s life only saplings can be grown, in the place of old trees - tens of centuries old - that have been destroyed.

We walked for a while, under the oaks sickened by fungus and other disease. Their friends the pines were not there to defend them against bacteria, fungus or viruses! Young and old alike wept. Though they were not but acorns when their parents died, they remember. The trees remember.

last  light 

Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time - and long before that - God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches and a thosuand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools…

That is why we cut down trees to make room to plant trees, John. That is why we encourage anyone who cares about trees to become involved in their local government. Together we can replant the forests, and as a nation of cities and Counties, enjoy all the benefits of that forest. Hunger and poverty need be no more if we reclaim this forest, and the planetary fever that now scorches the land and boils the seas can perhaps be cured.

We sat with John for a while, but soon it was time for bed. He would not spend the night at our camp. We watched him disappear into the trees, singing and laughing.


Goose Hello

Our geese are so excited to see us sometimes. When we return from deliveries, when they wander back from grazing, when we wander over to check on their grazing, when morning comes… they sing the same song!

The goose hello song is somewhat different than their other songs. Though we are still studying their language, the frequency and tone of the barks interacts with their extension and angle of their necks, and flapping of their wings to communicate the thought. For geese and all creatures, words and thoughts are keyed to an emotion. Hello is a very happy word for geese, but has no presentation of dominance or submission.

Click below to hear it!

Goose Hello


Don't Fence Me In!

Is the grass greener on the other side?

Is the grass greener on the other side?

We’re constructing a fence to keep our birds from grazing on our neighbor’s field. They just discovered the tasty grasses and things there! They’re not bad birds, but they do need some structure in their lives. Several hundred feet of structure.


They are, thankfully, not complaining. They seem to remember that the fields they used to enjoy aren’t so bad. Here’s a picture of the fence going in by our driveway. See our truck? Look nearby and you’ll see Scuttle the rooster helping to corral one of the more determined hens.

The wood is coming from the trees we are thinning, and would have otherwise been composted. We are preventing fire risk by ensuring adequate fire block on either side, and not stacking the wood high. The wild animals will be able to get through, over and around. It presents a visual reminder for our domesticated animals where our property line is. They are very familiar with territory, and like to stay within our territory: our protection and food is best!

Sleepytime Sounds



Click here to hear the sound…

We’re trying something new here. One of our favorite times is when all the birds go home and say goodnight to each other and to us. When we go to their coops to close the door for the night, the chickens sing to us a goodnight song. We have tried to record it so we could present it here in the blog. We’ll be experimenting with recording sound as well as images.




Saving the Sierras by Killing One Tree at a Time - now with an address!

Saws and axes are still good enough for thinning trees.  Shovels are still good enough for planting trees.  And, it turns out, tents are still good enough for living in!

Saws and axes are still good enough for thinning trees. Shovels are still good enough for planting trees. And, it turns out, tents are still good enough for living in!

We love trees. Who doesn’t? Yet we cut down a big one - almost 4 feet across. Then we cut down another! And then we cut down many smaller ones in our farm’s Sierra forest.


The monoculture on our farm is unnatural. Just a few hundred years ago, the pines - which provided better lumber - were cut down to help build Fresno, Clovis, and even far away cities. John Muir and other primary sources describe, besides the lumbering of the forest, cutting the trees to make way for sheep and other domesticated livestock.

The oaks were better able to survive this crisis. Even after the big oaks were cut down for wood, their acorns sprouted up. Now, the forest is mostly oak - several kinds of oak.

The larger herbivores that would have checked the growth of these oaks were destroyed by over hunting - they competed with the livestock. So the trees today grow too close together, and the lack of diversity further encourages disease. All trees increase the amount of water in an ecosystem, but the large sequoias and redwoods excelled at it. Now the forests burn so easy.

We are thinning the trees to a healthy density, and then a bit more so we can make room for sequoias, redwoods, pinions, junipers, and other evergreens. We will also be planting apples, cherries, pears, raspberries, blackberries and other native fruits.

A healthy forest is a diverse forest, but ours will still lack those necessary large herbivores! They will come when the habitat is restored. The carnovores and the necrovores will also return.

We see it whenever we reclaim land for our crops. An increase in biodiversity will lead to more diversity. And this healthy forest will improve the yields in our vegetable and fruit patches.

In other news,

If you’d like to come see our progress - or help in the lumberjacking or tree planting - you can more easily find us now. After long days of trying to talk to a human being (alas, time not spent blogging or doing real farm work!), the County has finally (kindly) given to us an address! There was some problem that we could not get an address without a house, but after a long discussion with the County, they have decided to recognize our tents as residences. Now we can vote, too!

We’ll be blogging more about this later, but were so happy that we had to share it today.


Fox Hunting

This fox was telling us to keep back: we had gotten too close - she had smelled a grasshopper and didn't want our sight, smell or sound to interrupt her hunt. It is important to understand what the animals you are following for study are telling you if you are to learn from them!

We study our wild animal friends so we can work better with them.

Foxes love the hunt! They eat grasshoppers, rodents, small lizards and snakes, and sometimes even vegetation - they LOVE fruit. Contrary to popular opinion, they do not eat much chicken - when they can get the more nutritious and delicious foods they are used to.

They like to hunt along deer paths, but when people are around, they much prefer the human paths and roads. People are better at making paths than deer are.

They walk along, marking their territory, and sniffing for something delicious. They do hunt with their eyes, but their nose is what gives to them their greatest advantage. They can smell something they cannot see or hear, and can smell it before they themselves are seen or heard! They can then dive through the air like a cat and pounce on what food they have found before it knows even that the fox was there!

This is why we make paths down our aisles, so the foxes will be further encouraged to hunt among our crops. Our aisles are already path-like, but we make sure they are extra good for fox hunts. At the same time, we make them excellent hunting grounds for felines, coyotes and all kinds of raptors. We study our carnivore friends, and help them do their work - as we help our herbivore friends do theirs. By helping every creature in our fields find food and shelter, our crops do best!

If you are friends with the fox, it will let you come along on its hunt. We followed a fox we had become friends with for several days like this, learning how it hunted, what it liked to eat, and generally becoming more familiar with its magnificent species. We read books about foxes (including the excellent book, “RED FOX: THE CATLIKE CANINE, by J. David Henry and published by the Smithsonian Institution). We reccomend, if you cannot spend some intensive time with the foxes, to at least read this book.

All canines are carnivores, and are able to safely digest meat. They do not store up uric acid like herbivores do when they eat meat (most herbivores in times of need will eat meat, dead or alive).

They will hunt extra and store what they cannot eat - this is why they do not like to hunt large animals (like chickens): they have to hide and store all that extra food! They only eat about an ounce at a time, and even a small 1 pound baby chicken would present a lot of food to hide. Their pups learn quickly how to hunt through play.

Foxes are aesocial with other foxes, and family groups are rare. However, they are fairly social with other species, and will befriend you (as much as they befriend anything) if you demonstrate your respect and keep out of their way during hunts (keep quiet and back so your smell doesn’t get in the way).

Dinosaur Eggs!

Dinosaur or goose? You decide.

Goose eggs are back! One of our younger visitors to the farm, upon seeing them, pronounced them to be “dinosaur eggs!”

We were pretty sure they were not dinosaur eggs, but goose eggs. We showed him our geese, and explained much evidence against his hypothesis, but in the end we were forced to acknowledge by this young scientist that we had not seen the geese lay those eggs, and they did look like dinosaur eggs.

This week, we’ll let you be the judge. Goose egg or dinosaur egg? Conduct your own experiment (on a skillet, in a baking dish, in your favorite bread, or in a pot) and let us know whether they taste like dinosaur or goose.


Getting enough sleep?


Half of us get more than the average amount of sleep, half of us get less, but more than half of us get more than the minimum sleep reccomended

The animals, we sometimes joke, are smarter than us - at night they go to sleep.

One of our neighbors noticed we’re always working and told us to go to bed. Are we sleep deprived at Re Rustica?

For guidance, we look to our doctors, who reccomend 8 hours of sleep every night. Eight hours! Goodness, it seems like too much. Is anyone else sleeping that much? We looked to our fellow Americans. The US Dept. of Labor says that folks our age are getting 8.5 to 8.7 hours of sleep! On average, working-age Americans are getting 8.47 hours!

Wow. We are sleep deprived. How much are we sleep deprived?

The sun rises in January at about 7AM, letting us get 6 hours of sleep (we go to sleep a bit later in winter, at about 1ish). In June, the sun rises at about 4AM, letting us get about 5 hours sleep (we go to sleep a bit earlier in summer - about 11ish). By sunrise, we of course mean twilight…

So, on average we’re getting 5.5 hours of sleep. Looks like we ought to get to bed 2-3 hours earlier.


Watch Goose

Our head goose (with the biggest hat) does guard duty most often.

Our geese are so careful! When eating or sleeping, they will take turns watching each other. One at a time, they’ll stop eating or sleeping and stand guard. This watch goose is all attention, and loves to honk to tell everyone else what is about them. “It’s Aaron!” they’ll honk. “It’s Mary!” they’ll honk. “A squirrel is coming over!” “a coyote is trying to be sneaky!”

In the middle of the night they’ll occasionally sound “all’s clear!” to let everyone know it’s still ok to sleep. This is usually followed by the “be quiet! we’re trying to sleep” honk.

One of our geese really hates the chickens. She will growl every time she sees them. Occasionally, she’ll growl long enough to work herself up hopping mad! She’ll hop and growl, and honk and squeek, and then charge the hapless chickens to attack them. The chickens and geese think it is some kind of game, and the chickens largely ignore her because she’ll come to her senses at the last moment and not hurt the chickens.

We’re not sure what this fight is all about, but when she’s on guard, she will sound high alert every time the chickens are nearby. She doesn’t do much guard duty these days…

Jethro Tull Guest Writes on Roots and Circulatory Systems of Plants

We’re taking the day off from writing blogs - and are glad to present to you today Jethro Tull, in his very first blog. Though he died in 1731, by this active and energetic assay into the blogosphere, he seems just as innovative as when he perfected the seed drill in 1701, doesn’t he? Fairly spry for a dead guy…

Seriously, this is an excerpt from his amazing, ground-breaking (forgive the pun) book on agriculture, “the Horse Hoeing Husbandry.” It was supposed to have been named “the Deep Hoeing Husbandry” but his publisher got creative and didn’t tell him. It improves (partially) on Columella’s “Agriculture,” and brought the scientific revolution to bear upon the art of crop production.

We have updated his book with modern science, and completed Mr. Tull’s work of improving upon Columella’s “Agriculture,” and will be publishing it this year. This, as all our books, will be available for free online download ( We’ve got a lot of good books for free - for you.

But without further delay, here is Mr. Tull himself, now speaking fully modernized American English, on the subject of determining the distance from the plant that roots extend, and on his amazing experiments with mint, demonstrating a circulatory system.

1. The Distance to which Roots Extend Horizontally

By this method the distance of the extent of the roots of any plant may be discovered. Dig a piece or plot and make fine in whole hard ground, the smaller end (A) two feet and the wider end (B) twelve feet. The length of the piece should be 60 feet. Plant twenty turnips (labeled “1” through “20”) at equal spacing. Hoe as closely as possible to the first plants with a spade and with each successive plant, hoe a foot further distance—six inches to each side. Make sure to dig deep each time, so that it will be the finer for the roots to enter when they are permitted to grow that distance.

If these turnips are all gradually bigger as they stand nearer to the end B, it is a proof that their roots extend so far from their center: if the turnip 20 is biggest, it is because it draws nourishment from all the land six feet from its center; but if turnips 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 acquire no greater bulk than the turnip 15, it is clear that the roots of the turnips extend no farther than those of turnip 15 do (about four feet).

There is another way to find the length of roots. Make a long narrow trench at the distance you expect the roots to extend and fill it with salt. If the plant is killed by the salt, it is certain that at least some of the roots entered into it.

What put me on to this method was an observation of two lands drilled with turnips in rows, a foot apart, at very even intervals. At both ends and one side was hard and unplowed soil. The turnips were not hoed and were very poor, small and yellow—except for the three outside rows (B, C and D) which stood next to the hoed soil (E). The soil E was hoed and harrowed at the time the soil A ought to have been and gave to the three outside rows (B, C and D) a very dark flourishing color. The turnips received so much benefit from it as to grow twice as big as any of the more distant rows. The second-nearest row C, being a foot nearer to the new plowed land, became twice as large as those in the further row D, but the middle row B, which was even nearer to the plowed land, grew much larger yet.

The land of hard unbroken ground (F) was about two perches in length and about two to three feet across. It is remarkable that for the length of this interadjacent hard ground F, the rows B, C and D were as small and yellow as any in the land E. That the turnips in row D, about one foot distance from land E received a double increase proves that they had as much nourishment from the land E as from the land A on which they were planted. In their own land (A) their roots must have extended at least three feet or else they could not have reached the land E.

In pulling up the aforementioned turnips, their roots seemed to end at a few inches distance from the plants, but one cause of peoples’ not suspecting roots to extend even to the twentieth part of the distance they actually do is from observing these horizontal roots near the plant to be pretty taper and assuming that if they continued to diminish at the rate they had until that point, they must soon come to an end. But the truth is that, after a few inches, the roots do not discernibly taper and pass to their ends very near the same bigness. This may be seen by experiment in growing roots in water.
Upon pulling up a carrot, I found an extremely small fiber on its side. It was much less wide than a hair, but through a microscope it appeared quite large. It was not taper, but broken off short at its end. It is probable that it never extended near as far as the turnip roots did. It had many fibers going out of it and I have seen that a carrot will draw nourishment from a great distance—though the roots are almost invisible where they come out of the carrot itself. These fine roots, as demonstrated by the land F, cannot penetrate soil unless the soil is broken open by tillage.
All roots—of trees and other plants—follow open soil. Roots can descend perpendicularly and mount again the same manner. In an orchard where the trees are planted too deep below the staple, the roots (at even a little distance from the stem) are all as near to the upper superficies as those trees that are planted higher than the soil’s surface. The damage of planting a tree too low in moist ground is that in passing through this low part the sap is chilled and its circulation is thereby retarded—not an inaccessibility to the staple.

I have observed the roots of a hedge to do this when passing a steep ditch two feet deep to reach the soil on the other side. When I dug five feet from the ditch, I found the roots there large—though this soil was very shallow and there were no roots below the good, open soil.

And I have seen a chalk pit (contiguous with a barn) the area of which was about forty perches of ground, was made clean and swept so that there was not the appearance of any part of a vegetable. Straw was thrown from the barn into the pit for cattle to lie on. The dung made thereby was carried away about three years after the pit had been cleaned when, at the bottom of it and on top of the chalk, the pit was covered all over with roots that came from a witch-elm that stood five yards above and six yards in length away from the pit. The witch-elm itself was only five yards tall, but in three years the roots grew themselves eight times the length of the tree beyond the extremities of the old roots. The annual increased length of the roots was three times as much as the height of the tree. I have seen this too in wheat: wheat, drilled, in double rows in November, in a field well tilled before planting, looked yellow when eighteen inches high. At two feet distance from the plants the soil was plowed. This gave such nourishment to the wheat that they recovered their health and changed their sickly yellow to a lively green.

2. Experiments with Mint
I. Experiments with Mints

That the color of the roots are different from the color of the leaves and other external parts of a plant is no argument against the circulation of the sap than to argue against a circulation of the blood by saying, “the color of the guts is different from that of the lungs and other parts of the animal body.” As far as I can discover, all roots (if they are properly described) are white. Even the red carrot sends out in the spring from all parts of it many fibrous roots, all as white as those of any other plant. The white color of roots comes from the vessels that circulate the chyle to the other parts of the plant.

When a good number of mint stalks had stood in water until they were well stocked with roots from their two lower joints (some of them from the three lowest joints) I set one into a glass (marked “A”) full of salt water. This mint A was perfectly dead within three days.

Another mint (marked “B”) I put into a glass of fair water, but I immersed one string of its roots (being brought over the top of another glass) into another glass of salt water. This mint also died very soon .

Another mint (marked “C”) stood in a glass of water and soil until it grew vigorously. I put one single root into a bag containing a spoonful of dry salt. Besides finding that this mint died also, I found that this salt was dissolved in water as high as the second joint of the root that was placed into it, and that the leaves of the mint tasted of salt.

I put a single root of another mint (marked “D”) into a small glass of ink as I had done when I put a root of mint C into a bag of salt. This plant was killed by some of the ink ingredients, but the blackness was not communicated to the stalk or leaves (which instead inclined to rather a yellowish color when they died, which seemed owing to the copperas in the ink).

For another mint (marked “E”), I made a very strong solution of water and the bruised seeds of wild garlic. I placed a couple of roots into this stinking liquor. This solution killed the mint after some time, but it was much longer in dying than the others were when exposed to salt and ink. This slower death may be because these roots in the garlic were small and did not bear so great a proportion to their whole system of roots as the roots by which the other mints were poisoned did to theirs. When the edges of the leaves of mint E began to change color, I chewed some of them in my mouth and found at first the strong aromatic flavor of mint. But that taste was soon replaced by the nauseous taste of garlic, which was very perceptible to my palate.

I have observed with another mint (marked “F”) that when mint has stood in a glass of water until it seemed to have finished its growth, the roots are a foot long and of an earthy color. When I put some fine soil into the water, it sunk to the bottom and soon there came from the upper joint a new set of white roots. These new white roots took their course on the outside of the heap of old roots downwards until they reached the earth at the bottom. Then they came to be of the same earthy color as the old ones.

Another mint (marked “G”), was well rooted from two joints about four inches apart. I put the roots of the lower joint in a deep glass of water and the roots of the upper joint into a square box of sand, which I had contrived for the purpose of standing over the glass of water: the box had a hole in it through which the mint stood, allowing the roots of the upper joint to be laid easily into one corner of the box of sand. The sand I filled the box with was first dried in a fire, but within only one night’s time I found that the roots of the lower joint had drawn the water up and imparted so much of the water to the dry sand above that the sand that the corner in which the roots of the upper joint lay was very wet (the other three corners were dry). This experiment I repeated very often and it always succeeded as it did the first time.

I prepared in my chamber a small trough (about two feet long) and placed a mint growing in a glass of water at each end of the trough (both marked “HH”). Half of the roots of each mint were allowed to stay in the water, the other half placed into the ends of the trough. I then covered the roots in the trough with loose soil and kept the glasses supplied with water. Whenever the roots would grow through the loose soil, I would put more on until the trough would hold no more. And still the white fibrous roots grew through the dirt, appearing above it. With a microscope I saw that these roots, upon coming above the ground, entered their ends into it again.

These two mints (HH) in my chamber grew three times as large as any other mint I had that stood in glasses of water (which were many!) and much larger than those which stood in water with earth in it (those being of an equal bigness when they were set in)—even though these two mints never had any water in their earth but what their roots sent up from the glasses. There was such a vast quantity of water these roots sent up that it was sufficient to keep all the earth in the troughs moist, though there was a thousand times greater quantity of soil than the roots that watered it. It is probable that the water passed out of the roots into the earth without mixing at all with the sap or being altered in any degree . The earth was always kept moist and even while in the hot weather there would not remain even a drop of water in the glasses after two days and a night, the roots in the glasses were never dry.

Demonstrating a Circulation from the Roots of Sap and Chyle
II. Remarks on the Mints

Though some marine plants are in some ways fortified against the acrimony of salt, the mints A, B and C each demonstrate that salt is poison to other plants. The reason why salts in dung, brine or urine do not kill plants in the field or garden is that their strength is diffused in the soil so that the no considerable quantity or force of the salts reaches the roots.

I tried applying salt to many potatoes growing in the ground. I undermined them and put a few of their roots into a dish of salt water. These roots all died sooner or later (according to their bigness). By these potatoes and the mints B, C, D and E, it appears that roots make no distinction between nourishment and poison. And, they are not brought to ingesting poison for lack of nourishment—they were vigorous and well fed at the time when the most inconsiderable part of their number was exposed to salt, garlic or ink.

The mint F shows that when new soil is applied to old roots, a plant sends out new roots for the purpose of feeding upon the new soil. The more earth that is given, the more roots will be formed and the greater the vigor of the plant. This addition of soil corresponds with the action of hoeing: every time the soil is moved about the roots, it is as if they have a change of soil (though it is true the soil is not new, the soil that has been moved is new to them).

The mint G proves that there is such a communication between the roots so that when any of them have water, they share of that water with the rest. This also demonstrates that the root of the lower joint of the mint had passages (or “vessels”) leading from them (through the stalk) to the roots of the upper joint.

The circulation of sap and chyle accounts for the great produce of the plants with long tap-roots, such as alfalfa and sanfoin in dry weather: the soil at great depths is always moist, even if the soil at shallow depths may be dry. It accounts for the good crops of these plants we have in dry summers upon land that has a clay bottom, for in that clay bottom the water is retained a long time and the lower roots of the plants that reach it do like those of the mint G and send up a share of that water to all the higher roots. If those roots of a plant that lie at the surface of the ground did not receive moisture from other roots that lie deeper, they could be of no use in dry weather and when the dry surface is loosened or fertilized, the plant would not grow faster if no rain fell. The deep roots communicate a share of the water to the shallow roots and in return the shallow roots send a share of the food: the two mints, marked HH show that when the upper roots have moisture (as they had in the earth in the trough, carried there by the lower roots), they impart some of it to the lower when the lower roots require water.

These mints demonstrate the circulation of sap and chyle and explain the benefit of the hoeing effects: loosening the soil encourages the plants to grow. Roots, by being broken off near their ends, increase their number and send out several where one is broken off, and roots increase their fibers every time the soil is loosened about them.


Altitude Matters to Crops

Altitude matters to crops in many ways. The higher elevations are cooler and grow several months behind schedule of the valleys: a farm that grows both at several hundred feet elevation and at the more than 3000 feet elevation of Squaw Valley can have winter and summer at the same time!


Cool nights are characteristic of high altitudes. With less atmosphere to hold in the heat, the crops chill somewhat. This increases sugar deposition in vegetables, making high altitude vegetables just slightly more sweet than low altitude vegetables.

Low altitudes are warmer longer and can yield more fruit longer. Fruit can ripen longer at lower altitudes, making low altitude fruit sweeter than high altitude fruit.

Mountain soils are different than valley soils, too, but this matters less to the flavor of fruits and grains and more to the flavor of vegetables. Which is better? It’s hard to say: some people prefer one to the other, other people like it the other way around. We like to compare it to water: some springs and wells taste better than others, depending on the minerals in the soil. This is why some people prefer the spring and well water of one mountain to another.

If you are curious, let us show you the difference! This week, one of our favorite foods - miner’s lettuce - comes into season and we are glad to show you the difference of high altitude versus low altitude with free samples.

We drive up and down hill all day, burning clean biofuel, spreading the smell of fresh produce and rotten french fries everywhere. Uphill is different than downhill for produce!

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