Monthly Archives: December 2009

Mushroom Hunting on the Sonoma Coast

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This winter marks the ninth year that I’ve been going with Scott up to Sea Ranch on at least a yearly basis. Some years we got three times, other years only once, but we try and make the trip up there as often as we can find time to get away. And for those nine years the ocean is what always captures my attention. I could sit and stare at those waves coming in and out for hours on end and when that gets old, we make driftwood forts or go shell hunting or climb sandstone cliffs. But this year in the house we stayed in there were a few books about the Sea Ranch hikes and I discovered that one was right next to the house we were staying in. It was called the Monarch Glen because this is where Monarch Butterflies comes during their migration to seek shelter. While I didn’t see any butterflies, I did see all of these enchanting vistas.

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Towards the middle of this short walk, there is a forest who’s floor was covered in all sorts of mushrooms. Scott is a mushroom hunter, as you may recall from last year’s porcini harvest. So I brought him back to help me identify some of these beautiful specimens. Below is my favorite an Amenita Muscaria, which you dare not eat! We also saw lots of coral mushrooms, Candy Caps, which are good for eating, and a whole slew of mushrooms that held names like Death Cap and Dark Angel and such. In fact as we walked and drove around we were astonished by all the mushrooms! They were everywhere, it was a bit like being in Alice in Wonderland.

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Fueled by mushroom inspiration, when we finally left yesterday we stopped off at Two Fish Bakery for a loaf of sourdough and headed down the coast, very slowly and with frequent stops for woodsy mushroom hikes. We did find oyster mushrooms and winter chanterelles along the way. And just before we headed inland back for Sonoma, we stopped in Bodega Bay for some live crabs for our dinners feast.
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Mushroom hunting is very fun, even just walking around looking at them, this year especially. However, as I’m sure you know, if you dare to pick and eat please do examine them closely and bring Mushrooms Demystified with you. Or better yet join your local mycological society for a group foray to learn what is good to eat.

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Merry Christmas from this Sonoma Garden

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Sending you Christmas wishes and many blessings to you and yours!

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Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Gifts for Teachers
I hope I’m not the last one rushing around doing last minute Christmas making! These boxes for the boys teachers are filled with shortbread, chocolate raspberry brownies, chocolate coconut cookies, and my favorite spicy ginger cookies. I added my christmas labels at the last minute, and we’re out the door to hear the boys perform, just like last year!

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Scott’s Apple Pie Recipe

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Excerpt from Little Brother of the Wilderness: The Story of Johnny Appleseed.
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I suppose December is a tad late to be talkin’ apples, but this past Sunday we were brought a peck full of fugi’s and two bottles of our favorite Apple Hill Cider by Scott’s mom. Every December weekend she helps out a close family friend at their Christmas Tree Farm, Harris Tree Farm, up in the California foothills. It’s gorgeous up there, if you haven’t already found the perfect tree, I suggest you head up there this weekend! Inside this barn below you’ll find all sorts of goodies including bags of apples, cider, homemade jam and tamales served pipin’ hot. It’s the perfect holiday experience. A mountainous drive, a little snow on the ground, the smell of evergreens and warm cider and tamales in the barn. You might even see my mother in law there!

For those of you who’ve seen this Rainbow Orchard cider at the Marin Farmer’s market, that’s owned by the same family as well. It’s delicious!

Apple barn door

Apples are a passionate topic among members of Scott’s family, especially when it comes to apple pie. Scott’s mom grew up on a good sized ranch in the Sierra Foothills that had an apple orchard with all sorts of varieties of apples. With so many apples, you can see why apple pie baking soon became a competitive affair amongst family members. So it goes as no surprise that Scott won the Pie Baking Contest at the Sonoma Garden Park’s Harvest Fair in October. I had no doubt in my mind that he would win, after all look at his pie: And this one was baked in the barbeque on Thanksgiving day when we realized that the power was going to be out for a long time (oh what an adventurous thanksgiving! Did you know you can barbeque dinner rolls too, oh yes you can!).
BBQed Pie & Buns
His recipe was published in the local paper, I’ll share it with you here:

Grandma’s Apple Pie

This is my Grandmothers recipe(with a little altering). This can be a great communal
effort as everyone can help peel, core, and slice the apples. Things that can make it
especially delicious are local apples in season and the quality of the butter.

For the crust:

The amounts could be adjusted depending on the size of the pan. These amounts are
enough for a large pie.

3 cups of flour
2 TBSP of sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
8 oz chilled butter
ice water (the amount varies)

Place the flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut the butter up into
cubes about the size of a sugar cube and put in with the flour. Then using
two knives or a dough blender, break the butter up into smaller pieces. You
can do this with a food processor as well but doing it by hand is preferable.
You want to end up with pieces of butter about the size of small peas. Then
work in ice water a little at a time until you can bring the dough together
as one solid ball. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

For the apples:
Again the amount varies depending on the size of your pie. I really like to mound
them up high. I like using a combination of sweet and tart apples.

5 lbs of apples
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of flour
2 TB of butter

I fill a large bowl half way with water and add some lemon juice. This helps keep
the apples from turning brown while you are working.

Peel, core, and slice approximately 8 granny smith and 4 golden delicious apples.
Again the food processor can do the slicing but hand done inconsistent slices make
a more interesting pie.

Bring it all together:

Cut you rested, cooled dough into two and roll out one for the bottom of the pie.
Drain the apples, toss with the cinnamon and flour, then fill the pie. Cut up the
butter into 6 pieces or so and place on the top of the apples. Roll out the top,
place over the pie, crimp and trim the edges. Cut 3 or 4 slits in the pie so
the steam can escape during cooking. Place in a 350 deg oven for about an hour
and 15 min. About half way through I brush the top with milk and sprinkle a little
sugar over it for browning and additional texture. Let the pie cool for at least 30
minutes but it’s best served warm. Enjoy!!

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Walk Through Our Garden ~ Pictures of Early December

Early Bloomer

Early Blooming Camellia.
Changing
Jasmine & Japanese Barberry

To hide a view we aren’t crazy about, I spent some time stringing wire along the fence this summer and training star jasmine up them. Hopefully next summer it will be almost a full wall of blooming jasmine. That’s Japanese Barberry in the front because I’ve never been able to resist the ever changing colors of their leaves.
Old Asparagus, New Arugula

Old Asparagus, New Arugula
The Storm Blew the Leaves Off
The Forest Floor
Bark TeePee

We had an incredible wind storm last weekend. The strongest we’ve had since we can remember. It stripped all the leaves off our fruit trees and littered our lawns with sequoia and oak debris. We made mini teepees with our finds.
December in Our Yard

As much as I enjoy the green lushness of spring, I really do like the stark gray of winter in our garden too.

I’d love to see what your garden looks like now. If you have pictures on a blog or flickr or somewhere, do share the link!

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