Milo Mitchel

Science Education and Gardening

Page 4 of 11

Casey’s Amazing Bread

Casey bakes the most amazing bread for zazu. I usually arrive between 6 and 7am and find Casey baking away at the restaurant. He often arrives at midnight and finishes around 10am. Casey is a true artisan, dedicated to his craft, and it shows.

The Apple Cannery

On our way back from a forum on the future of the JC’s sustainable agriculture program, I got to visit the cannery with my friend Torrey, who grows apples at Gabriel Farm. We waited in line with other farmers outside their flatbed trucks and talked about the falling apple prices of late. The cannery is the only remaining fruit processor in Western Sonoma County. It has a huge space aged press that spins as it squeezes the juice out of the apples, and also makes sauce and vinegar. Here’s a history of cannery from the company’s website:
Manzana Products Co., Inc. is a historic apple cannery nestled in Sebastopol’s Green Valley. For over 80 years, apple sauce, apple juice, and apple cider vinegar have been produced in this little corner of the world. Our area is a famous growing region for wine grapes , but many other crops as well. In fact, Manzana was started as a small dryer operation known as Oehlmann Evaporator. Local fruit such as apples, prunes, pears, and hops were delivered and dried. It was owned and operated by husband and wife team, Rudolph and Maude Oehlmann. In 1945, Oehlmann Evaporator became incorporated and changed it’s name to Manzana Products.

Chicken Harvest at Silva Star Farm

Chickens in Killing Cones, having just died a near painless death.

The zazu farm crew joined Sarah Silva for a chicken harvest today, and together we eviscerated 50 Rouge Red chickens. Sarah gave us all a refresher course on chicken anatomy, and we were lucky to have an automatic scalder and plucker on hand. Check out our Youtube videos of the harvest here. Warning to sensitive viewers: these videos contain graphic footage of chicken harvesting.

Sarah Silva pulling the innards out and Sarah Mitchel removing pin feathers.

Sarah removing the innards. Usually this is done mechanically.

Horticultural Adventures on the Coast

Joe stopping to check out dudleyas and sedum as he scrambles up a crag.

On our way to a gardening job in Sea Ranch, Joe and I took a secret trail to this dramatic outcropping of cliffs that hang over the Pacific Ocean. These rocks are dotted with lots of beautiful succulents, mostly dudleyas and sedums. These plants survive harsh conditions with hardly any nourishment. The north coast is home to many native wildflowers that are just now waking up. Since California native plants grow during the rainy season and go summer dormant, Fall is their Spring. Therefore, this is an excellent time to plant native plants and wildflower seeds.

Porcelain Berry

Growing along the wall in front of zazu is a grape-like vine with striking blue to purple berries. This Porcelain Berry (ampelopsis brevipedunculata), is a relative of the grape, and while the berries are gorgeous, they aren’t good to eat.

Bee Hive Inspection

Sierra and Sarah trying to ascertain why the bees in this hive have not built comb in the new box. Sierra Castillo, vice president of the Sonoma County Bee Keepers Association came out to Rancho Pillow today to help us with the bees. My sister Sarah accompanied her during the hive inspection. These hives have had some problems and so Sierra is going to combine them in an attempt to stimulate more reproduction. Sierra is going to help us switch to plastic-free hives, which the bees prefer.

Silva Star Farms Web Tour

Sarah Silva describing how her mobile meat chicken coop works.

My sister Elena and our videographer Colin joined me for a video shoot at Silva Star Farms today. Sarah Silva is an amazingly innovative farmer, and is truly passionate about her work. We are currently editing the footage. The first video, about the Tamworth hogs, is here. The second video is about Sarah’s farming business model, here. The third is about Sarah’s chicken tractors here. We will be posting more Youtube videos soon.

Sarah and her Tamworth hogs.

Baby Goats!

Redwood Hill brought their cheeses and baby goats to the farm stand today, and we also welcomed Silva Star Farms and veggies from Felton Acres. The zazu farm stand will be open this Sunday October 24rth with Silva Star Farms, Ty’s veggies, Elena’s prints and Joe’s Victory Garden posters. Note:  If you leave a contact message, please leave your email, otherwise I can’t contact you.

David and Scott from Redwood Hill tell visitors about their baby goats.


Nasturtiums are not only beautiful and delicious, but they are also easy to grow. They thrive in most soils with little water. The flowers are striking in a salad, and they add a spicy kick.

Nasturtiums growing in a bed with onions at Rancho Pillow. If you choose the U-pick option at zazu, help yourself to some of the nasturtium flowers growing in a wine barrel with strawberries.

Cinder Block Lettuce

Lettuce growing in cinder blocks at zazu with millet in the background.

As the days and nights grow cooler, so does the soil, and this slows the growth of plants. This is why most commercial greenhouses use heat mats to heat soil and stimulate growth. There are a number of ways you can achieve warmer soil without using electricity. Perhaps the cheapest is to plant in cinder blocks. These blocks collect heat during the day and then radiate it during the night. They also provide excellent drainage. These $2 blocks also work well as the walls of a raised bed, with or without mortar. I have planted lot’s of different starts in cinder blocks at zazu, and they have grown much faster than the ones I planted at the same time in the ground. I’ve also been experimenting with planting in pure compost or manure, which seems to work well. Starting this week, restaurant patrons will be able to pick their own lettuce before dinner for a salad with asian pears.

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