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El Niño, Come Home!

What an exciting day yesterday! The forecast was accurate, and we received the much-needed rain we had hoped for. Between the heavy downpours, and strong winds, it was an unusual sight for our area. Then again, we are spoiled by what others would consider perfect weather for most of the year. The total was 1.05 inches here at the farm, which was enough to keep the ground wet, and keep the plants happy. We haven’t watered in weeks!

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Santa Barbara has measured just over 6.5 inches of rain this year to date. Unfortunately, that is nowhere near what we actually need. The majority of that rain fell in a three day period at the beginning of the month. The streets were flooded and water was pouring into the grow beds on the sides of the property. The flood carried away more than half of the soil, and replaced it with sand. There will be some repair work in the coming weeks, and some brainstorming on what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.

For more information on El Niño and the effects it is having on California, as well as accurate and scientific weather info pertaining specifically to our state and climate, check out meteorology’s new superstar, Daniel Swain. His blog can be found at www.weatherwest.com.  

 

My Top 5 Heirloom Seed Companies

seedcataloguevintageYes, I admit it! I have a seed addiction.  People often ask me where I like to purchase my seeds. Here are five of my favorite places to procure seeds.

1. Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange is a popular place to purchase seeds. Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange is a registered non-profit and the reason why heirlooms are so popular today. Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa is the headquarters of this organization. Here you’ll find their seed collection, display gardens and walking trails. They carry seeds for herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers.

2. Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change offers 100 percent certified organic seeds and plants. They grow all their own seeds on their research farm or within their network of organic farmers. All of their offerings are open-pollinated, and they specialize in traditional and heirloom varieties.

3. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Baker Creek Seeds offers unique heirloom, non-genetically modified seeds. Baker Creek’s store in Petaluma’s historic Sonoma County National Bank building is a beacon for gardeners, foodies and tourists. If you’re ever in that part of California, have a look at the Baker Creek Seed Bank.

4. Territorial Seed

Territorial Seed was founded in 1979 by Steve Solomon. The company was later sold to Tom and Julie Johns in 1985. Since then, their main focus has been on making it possible for gardeners to improve their self-sufficiency and independence by enabling them to produce an abundance of good tasting, fresh from the garden food. Territorial Seed carries vegetable seeds and plants, along with garden supplies.

5. High Mowing Organic Seeds

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, High Mowing Organic Seeds started as a one-man operation, and  is now a thriving business. Over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed are made available to home gardeners and commercial growers.

 

Time for Seeds

2016-01-27-10.01.45.jpg.jpegWith spring not too far away, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to put in the ground this year. It is the time to try new seed varieties, and be adventurous in your garden planning!

This is always an exciting time for us here at Flora Vista Farms. This is the time where your input from the previous year comes to life. Many of you, over the years, have requested specialty seedlings. Most of you are especially interested in unique tomato varieties. This year we will carry more tomato seedling varieties than we ever have!  Keep an eye out for our upcoming posts, with updated lists of available items. We strive to bring you the best quality produce and goods here locally.

8th annual Santa Barbara Community Seed Swap

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Join your community for this free event, and share seeds and knowledge with other like-minded folks. There will be music, speakers, and local information you will find nowhere else.

This is my favorite event of the year! And, as I overheard last year from a fellow attendee, “This is where all the cool people hang out.”

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 11AM to 3PM

Santa Barbara Public Library

40 E Anapamu St.  Santa Barbara, CA

How rescue dogs led me to grape jelly.

In February of 2014 we added a new member to our family. We realized our dear Raleigh would have a more joyful life if she had a little brother or sister to tag around with. We found “Fat Buddha” at DAWG, a local rescue that does a great job at placing dogs into new homes. Buddha arrived at DAWG with his sister Lola, and both were having a bit of trouble being placed due to medical and behavioral issues. We were able to adopt Buddha, but unfortunately we weren’t in the position to adopt two dogs. We visited Lola often, and took her on walks near the shelter. On one of our walks with her we discovered a large hedge with concord grapes! We stood there eating the grapes right off the vine, enjoying the floral sweetness. I vowed to go back the next summer and pick enough to make at least a couple small jars of jelly.

That brings us to yesterday…

Iwpid-20150811_120758.jpg was able to find a couple pounds of delicious grapes, and turn them into some wonderful jelly. First I rinsed off the few stray ants that were enjoying the sugary treats. I threw them in a pot with about a cup of water and boiled them for about 15 minutes. I then poured everything into a mesh strainer and let it drain while I was preparing the jars.

Back into the pot with the strained juice, as well as some sugar and fresh squeezed lemon. At this point you have to watch it, there is nothing scarier than hearing your jelly boil over onto your stove while you were away for a split second. Constant stirring and adjusting the heat can help you keep it at a rolling boil for the desired time to achieve the thickness you are looking for.wpid-2015-08-12-09.16.08.jpg.jpeg

From here on out it’s pretty easy. Fill the jars up, put the lids on, and process them in a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes .

Lola is happy and doing just fine in her new home. Raleigh and Buddha enjoy hanging out in the kitchen and waiting for things to fall on the floor. I tell them, “No grapes or grape jelly for dogs!” They are perfectly content with peanut butter.