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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This is what grocery shopping looks like

A locavore’s Saturday morning does not involve sleeping in. Mom and I were up early and on the road by 9 to do go on a scavenger hunt for groceries in the Anderson Valley.The Apple Farm

First stop was The Apple Farm in Philo. Pretty sure it’s the cutest farmstand of yummy in the world, with a beautiful pastoral backdrop of barn, apple orchards and the Navarro River nearby. Cuteness aside, Gowan and I had an apple cider vinegar emergency this week, and this is our supplier, so this was a serious visit. When I arrived there was only one bottle on the shelf, so I had to hunt someone down to open another case for us. Phew. Also picked up the first apples of this season!

Next we went to Gowan’s Oak Tree farm and I got a bag of yellow peaches and some walnuts.

Then, to retrieve milk and butter and pop in at the Boonville Farmers’ Market where I discovered some precious duck eggs and a free-range chicken. I also met a farmer who has five laying ducks for sale, so now I just need to convince Gowan to build a pond and a horse stable…

At the Farmhouse Mercantile in Downtown Boonville I discovered this useful vintage diagram. Must study up so I can impress Gowan with my horse knowledge as I fantasize about my future in the saddle.

Vintage drawing of horse anatomy

On the way home we stopped in at Balo Vineyards‘ tasting room and picked up a bottle of Pinot and some Pennyroyal Farms blue cheese. Next time, we’re staying to play bocce ball.

All this and we made it home in time to enjoy a lovely afternoon in Mendocino.

Mendocino headlands

Not exactly your typical stop for groceries, but a lovely way to spend a warm summer morning and a wonderful occasion to put on a sun dress. Instead of rushing through the store aisles in my pajamas, trying not to get stuck in conversations with acquaintances, I look forward to these food forays. You feel differently when you’re going right to the source for your survival; you look forward to the smiles that await you and the brief moment to connect to other human beings who have become part of the ecosystem of your life in this great unending cycle of food and compost.