Rominger Brothers Farms won first place in the 3rd Annual Winters Tractor Parade in the Farm Fresh category! Justin Rominger drove our tomato harvester down Main Street in Winters, California, on Saturday, Dec. 2nd, and was joined by some of our farm employees and friends. The annual event was a big success and continues to get bigger every year. Downtown Winters was packed with people who came to watch the lighted-tractor parade and tree-lighting ceremony, and many children enjoyed visiting with Santa Claus during his appearance at Rotary Park.
My husband Bruce, right, and his foreman, Juan Montano, are standing in a newly planted almond orchard near Davis, California. The varieties are Nonpareil, Wood Colony and Winters, and the first nut crop will be produced in 2020. Sierra Gold Nursery provided the trees, which are planted at a density of 132 trees per acre. The crew has been working hard to get all the trees in between the rains. Just remember that Northern California growers don’t say “almonds,” they say “am-ends” because during nut harvest they “knock the L out of ’em”!
These two oxen belong to my husband’s Uncle Stuart and Aunt Emily Rowe of Innisfail Ranch in Dixon, Calif. Each one of these big boys weighs more than a ton–they are huge! Oxen, which are castrated adult male cattle, are typically bigger than bulls. They were traditionally used as draft animals for plowing fields and hauling heavy loads. These two have an easier life, standing guard over the red-and-white Milking Shorthorn dairy cows in the adjacent corrals. Watch out for those horns!
Today there were a lot of volunteers at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif., helping take care of the animals that were evacuated during the wildfires, including these three donkeys. At right is Skip, the man who owns these donkeys; he and his wife live in Capell Valley, Napa County, and had to evacuate last week. Heather, the lady in the middle, flew down from St. Helens, Oregon to help out at the animal-evacuation center. I was at home this morning and I turned on KCRA Channel 3 News and learned that volunteers were needed at the fairgrounds, including people who have experience with large animals. Heeding the call of duty, I grabbed all the horse halters and lead ropes that we have, took the kids to school and drove about 40 miles to the fairgrounds. When I arrived, I was one of several dozen volunteers who cleaned stalls and walked the horses around so they could get some exercise. In addition to equines, there were cows, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits and chickens. Several companies and individuals donated animal feed and shavings for the stalls; other people generously brought food and drinks for the volunteers. There were veterinarians treating animals that had been injured, a construction company working on the animal shelters, and waste-management personnel keeping the livestock facility clean. It was an amazing experience to see so many people helping out those in need.
The nearest wildfire is about 10 miles from our ranch, by the way the crow flies. It has been very smoky here–this tractor looks like its surrounded by fog, but it’s smoke from the Atlas fire in neighboring Napa and Solano counties. It’s very windy outside and there are visible plumes of smoke west of Winters. Calfire helicopters and air tankers are flying over our property on their way to fight the wildfires. There are 22 wildfires burning throughout California right now. We appreciate our family and friends who have been checking in with us to see if we’re OK. Fortunately, we don’t have any beef cattle or sheep grazing on our foothill rangeland right now. We’re just praying for the people who have been directly impacted by the fires, such as our neighbor’s cousin, whose home in Sonoma County was destroyed, and the 8,000-plus firefighters and other first responders who are putting their lives on the line to protect us.
Many eyes are on our employee, Alex Hasbach, the young lady pictured in the back row, third from left, as she graduates with other members of her Farm Academy class on the west steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. The Farm Academy is sponsored by the Center for Land-Based Learning, which is located in Winters, Calif. My husband Bruce and I attended Alex’s graduation ceremony last weekend, along with her parents, Tom and Pat. As part of the Farm Academy, students work on a farm as an intern while attending an academic training program. Alex is interning at Rominger Brothers Farms, where she is learning all aspects of farming, from irrigating the fields to agricultural accounting. It’s a great program and we’re pleased to have Alex on our team!
I had a few requests for my peach pie recipe, so here you go:
1 ¼ cups lard (or shortening)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons ice-cold water
6 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
To make the crust, mix together the flour and lard with a pastry blender. Beat the egg, salt, vinegar and water together; add the liquid mixture to the flour and lard. Blend ingredients, divide in half and put one half of the dough into the refrigerator. Lay parchment paper on the counter and sprinkle flour on it. (I prefer using parchment paper, but you can skip this and simply roll out the dough on a counter surface generously sprinkled with flour.) To create the bottom crust, place one-half of the dough on top of the parchment paper; sprinkle it with flour, and flatten it with a rolling pin. Use a spatula to lift the crust off the parchment paper and place the crust into the pie plate. Cut ½-inch outside of pie plate.
To make the filling, place the sliced peaches in a colander for about 15 minutes and drain excess liquid. Then gently mix together the peaches, lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, flour and cinnamon; transfer to the pie crust. Dot with butter.
Take the other half of the dough out of the refrigerator and make the top crust; sprinkle flour on the parchment paper, then flatten out remaining dough with the rolling pin, and place it on top of the peach mixture. Flute edges. Cut vents in the top crust and sprinkle with sugar. Cover the pie edges with a pie crust shield (or use strips of aluminum foil) and bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Then remove pie crust shield, and continue baking for another 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature; a scoop of vanilla ice cream is highly recommended!
My husband Bruce brought welding masks to our daughter Rachel’s school so she and her 4th grade classmates could glimpse at the solar eclipse. Like other parents, farmers volunteer at their children’s schools. This was certainly a unique opportunity! Bruce grabbed a couple of welding masks from our farm shop and drove to Shirley Rominger Intermediate School (named after his Aunt Shirley) while taking a short break from harvesting his tomatoes. I was there too, taking photos of the kids–Rachel is on the right, wearing the flamingo shirt. And of course, it was necessary to bring food to the eclipse-viewing party: Moon Pies!
I just interviewed a peach grower for a magazine story that I’m writing, and he gave me a bunch of peaches, so I decided to make a pie. Robbie Bains of Yuba City will be featured in the upcoming issue of the California Canning Peach Association’s magazine. It’s really great to get fresh-from-the-farm produce! We grow about a dozen crops on our farm, but the only peach tree we have is a single freestone variety in the backyard, and the birds usually get most of our fruit. I interviewed this particular grower, along with his 10-year-old son, in their orchard near Gridley. It was nice to see a family farmer teaching his young son, who represents the next generation of American farmers. And my farm family was pleased to be the taste-testers of these delicious peaches!
Here is my brother-in-law Rick Rominger, getting ready to operate the harvester in one of our sunflower fields. These seeds are being produced for Nuseed.