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!

Homemade Peach Pie

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!

Sunflower Harvest

My brother-in-law Rick started harvesting sunflowers. In this case, he was harvesting the male sunflower seeds. There are male and female sunflowers, and they need to be planted next to each other for optimum seed production.  Behind the dried-up male sunflowers, there are taller, green, female sunflowers, which were pollinated–with the help of honeybees–to produce big seed heads, and they will be harvested a little later. The seeds will be used to produce sunflower oil. We have wild turkeys around here that hide in the sunflower field. I guess it’s fair to say that sunflower-seed production is a lesson about the birds and the bees!

Tomato harvest is in full swing

My husband Bruce started harvesting his processing tomatoes. It’s a very busy time for us, as the tomatoes are harvested day and night, depending when the cannery needs them. Harvesting began as it usually does in July, but this year, our three-month harvest period will extend later into mid-October, because the wet spring conditions delayed planting. Then the weather went from wet to very hot. We had a 10-day heat wave in June, with temperatures peaking at 110 degrees. Now we’re entering another heat wave, with temperatures forecasted to exceed 100 degrees for the next 10 days.

But the really hot news is that tomatoes are part of the latest food trend: vegetable soups are being packaged as ready-to-drink beverages. Of course, Campbell’s Soup led the way with V8 juice, which is where the tomatoes pictured above will go. Drinking vegetables is no longer called juicing, it’s called “souping.” So drink your veggies!

Farm boy

My 12-year-old son John learned how to drive the backhoe this weekend–it should come in handy around the farm. My husband said John’s first job will be digging a hole someplace. I remember when John’s big brother Justin was 12 years old and learned to drive the backhoe. One day Justin saw me struggling with a shovel in my attempt to remove a whole bunch of cactus–a slow, thorny process. Pre-teen Justin drove the backhoe over and scooped out all the cactus in a matter of minutes. I’m thankful for mechanized agriculture and heavy equipment operators!

Checking on the nearby fire

My husband Bruce, our son John, our daughter Rachel and I drove up in our rangeland to see how far away the Winters fire is from our property line. We drove past our flock of sheep and parked on the top of a hill, where we watched numerous Cal Fire airplanes and helicopters working to contain the fire. It appeared to be a couple miles southwest of our ranch. We are monitoring the situation, in case the wind shifts and the fire spreads our way. Bruce has a bulldozer ready in case he needs to make a firebreak.

Wildfire burning nearby

There is a wildfire burning within sight of our southern property line. Apparently it started this afternoon along Highway 128 and Pleasants Valley Road southwest of Winters, and has been moving northward in the Coast Range Mountains. Our foothill property is in the foreground, and you can see the Cal Fire airplane dropping fire retardant on the northern edge of the fire. As of 7:30 p.m. (about the time this photo was taken) the fire had burned 1,000 acres and was 15 percent contained.