Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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Roadside foraging: finding food in the most unexpected places

Truly, I have missed all of you. I needed a little break after July’s blog-a-thon so I spent a couple days alternatively doing a deep clean of my apartment and watching the entire season of Firefly. And now I feel so behind; it’s amazing how much can happen in just a couple of days in the adventures of a locavore.

Over the weekend it was verified that I have to spend a lot more time with goat udders before I am going to be able to coax milk out of them. It was also confirmed that taking the goats on a walk to pick blackberries is super fun and wonderfully symbiotic: they browse on the thorny leaves while the humanfolk go for the sweet fruits.

Milking goats (or trying to)

Yesterday I met up with sisterwife Melinda in the Anderson Valley to make a series of stops for milk, butter, plums, apples, walnuts and corn and a little wine tasting at Goldeneye.

As we were heading to the river for a sunny dip before return, Melinda suddenly says, “Our day just got more complicated,” and she looks into the rearview mirror and pulls over to turn the car around.

I assumed we had a cop on our tail. Nope, I should have known better; the “emergency” was an elderberry bush on the side of the road and obviously we couldn’t just drive past such an opportunity. We dug out a cardboard box from underneath glittery high heels and feathered boas in the backseat of the burlesque-mobile to do some impromptu gathering.

With this haul of elderberries, I will be making elderberry syrup and drying some for tea (recipes forthcoming). A cautionary note on elderberries: eating large amounts raw is very dangerous because they contain high levels of cyanide. So snack on a few while picking and cook the rest before enjoying. The most surprising roadside treasure is yet to come, though.

Today while I was walking my dog in downtown Mendocino, I saw a check laying on the side of the road. It was written for a very, very, very large sum of money, but unfortunately not made out to me. Sigh. I picked it up like any benevolent neighbor would (with the theme song of Firefly playing in my head). When I got home I tracked down the number of it’s rightful owner and called to let them know it was in good hands. It’s a small town, but I didn’t know the guy. I explained that I was the eat local girl and he recognized me from my article in the Real Estate Magazine. He said he had picked it up at the Navarro Store and once he started reading it, he sat down to read the whole thing there. Turns out that he and his partner have been growing a lot of food in Comptche for decades and they have everything from veggies to apples, peaches and AVOCADOS right now. I told him he could feel free to bring me some of this goodness, and he said, “I owe you one, I’m going to bring you food for a month.” So, I picked up a lost check and didn’t strike it rich, but I’m going to get local avocados, which is basically the same thing.


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What the postman delivered

I must be doing something right, because I got the best mail today. After a long, full day at the farmers’ market, I went by the post office to mail something and was surprised to find two packages awaiting me. When I opened them, this is what I found:

Eat Mendocino Mail

The first package held some hand-sewn cloth “pockets” which are like an apron/fanny pack combo. Our lovely graphic designer, Jen Barbato, came up with this signature design when she became a mom and needed more places to put things. She sewed a custom jar with a heart on this pair for me. Love love. Jen says that these pockets are for “mothers, artists, gardeners, travelers and do-ers,” and she makes them in pretty patterned prints, or solid colors. I’m infamous for rocking an AARP look by wearing my fitover sunglasses and a fanny pack and some of my friends will be much relieved when I sport these adorable pockets instead. Here’s a better look.

Pockets by Jen Barbato

The second package came from Chico, mailed by a friend and Mendocino native, Isa. (Funny how we’ve swapped hometowns!) She send an issue of the Edible Shasta Butte magazine, pointing me to an article about the Chico Seed Lending Library. Very cool concept which allows people to borrow and return seeds from the Butte County Library!

“Here’s how it will work. Home gardeners check out donated seeds, plant them, let some plants go to seed, and return the seeds to the library collection. No obligation, no fines – just opportunity.”

How awesome is that? We have a few great seed and scion exchanges around the county every year, but it would be wonderful to extend the concept into an organized library, available year-round. So many good ideas… but, a locavore’s got to make time to mop the floor and fold the laundry, too (which is exactly what I decided to forgo all other plans to do.) While flipping through the rest of the magazine, I found this poignant quote, which was photographed at a local dairy farm.

Thomas Jefferson quote

Then, my email inbox dinged. A friend forwarded me a message about a very clever online Farmers’ Market Recipe Generator from the New York Times.

“The Recipe Generator is essentially a one-armed bandit of ingredients and techniques, offering more than 50 combinations of things you’re most likely to find in a market or your C.S.A. basket, with recipes that make wonderful use of them.” – NYT

You start by choosing your produce item, or cooking method, or herbs, and it will concoct a recipe accordingly. Or you can select “randomize” and it will do all the thinking for you. It’s really fun to play with, check it out!

Seems to me that all of these little surprises are the law of attraction at work. The deeper we get into this year, the more good news seems to arrive on our door steps. Food connects all of us, so by getting closer to our food, we are getting closer to each other.  When these little packages show up, or when strangers introduce themselves at the market just to let me know that they have been seriously moved by what we are doing, it is a concrete reminder that we are operating within the universal vein. And, when you tap into that, abundance is the law.


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10 things I am grateful for after 7 months of eating local

Tonight culminates the end of the seventh month, and marks the end of my daily blog challenge. I wrote almost every day in July and as a result I haven’t been to bed before midnight all month. But, it has definitely been worth it, and the writing will not stop here. Hopefully Gowan will trade off so that I can get some more sleep, like taking turns to check on the baby at night.

During the past month, our project has transformed into something much bigger than I could have predicted thirty-one days ago. I am tired, but I am filled with gratitude and awe at how this eating local project has unfolded…

10 things I am really, really grateful for:

1. Farmers

Bottom line, you are keeping us alive. The farmers in Mendocino County also tend to be the most radical, stubborn, soulful and loving of their breed. Thank you for feeding us, hugging us, inspiring us, and making us laugh.

2. The Seasons

Living so much in the moment means being entirely present with the flavors, smells and textures of each season. The conventional diet literally prevents us from tasting time. Summer feels like a honeymoon and the first few months of this year now seem like a distant Soviet past. But, each season yields many lessons and many gifts.

Pink Pear Apples w/ Chevre

3. The SF Chronicle

The recent article in the SF Chronicle, flawed as it was, has stimulated a spirited and essential discussion about access to local food in our county. Unfortunately, it grossly misrepresented both the family it focused on and the entire county. Yet, it gave us the opportunity to contribute to a conversation that has reached people all over the country and beyond. Most importantly, it has hit home here in Mendocino. Today, the woman profiled in the article, Irma Barragan, invited us to interview her so that we can tell her real story. It is an honor to be a voice for this community, and the second largest newspaper in California helped broadcast our voice beyond our imaginings.

4. Living (and drinking) in a small town

This is what happens when a small-town locavore orders a drink…

Me: Can I get a glass of Mendocino red wine?
Bartender Alex: Yup, I’ve got Zinzilla.
Me: Are you sure that’s local?
Alex: Sarah, I know what you’re up to and I’m NOT going to F— it up for you

5. The Mendocino Farmers’ Market

Managing the Mendocino Farmers’ Market has been a lifechanging endeavor (which got much better once I hired someone to help with the signs). I am grateful to hang with the vendors (all of them are total characters) and community members each week. It’s an honor to be part of an essential link in the local food system, and to help it grow. Plus, grocery shopping at the Farmers’ Market is the best.

Summer produce from Inland Ranch Organics

6. The MTA bus drivers

As a bus-pass carrying rider, I am grateful for the bus drivers who act more like chauffeurs and know their riders by name. The bus schedule in a rural area is severely limited and inefficient, but I have to be grateful that it exists at all.

7. The freezer

Thank you to my freezer for saving me from the guilt of fruit gone bad. Part of seasonality is sudden bounty, which doesn’t coincide with one’s schedule. And, most likely I will forget about 1/2 of what I put in there, so I’ll be in for some sweet summer treats when I dig them out in the winter.

8. My sisterwife Gowan

Thank you for having this visionary idea and for entering into an extremely intense, intimate, and all-consuming endeavor with me. Thank you for your calculated pragmatism, Germanic efficiency, and fiercely beating heart. I love every meal we share together and every crazy idea we dream up.

Gowan's "girl farm" fists

9. Everyone who made it this far in the list

Seriously, thanks to all of you who actually want to read what we have to say. In other circumstances, it would be creepy how many people introduce themselves by saying, “I’m following you,” but it is a huge compliment that you share your time with us. Thanks for all the ‘likes,’ comments and support. We love you.

10. Bacon

Tonight we ate bacon for the first time in seven months thanks to Adam & Paula Gaska from Mendocino Organics. It was a very special occasion; I am pretty sure we both have bacon-sized holes in our mighty little hearts. Thank you to the land and pigs that make bacon – and happiness – possible.

Smoked bacon from Mendocino Organics