Frey Farm & Garden Blog
POSTED THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2015 – By Molly Frey
Goats grazing in Frey organic vineyard.
Spring on the Frey farm has come early this year. The sun shine and rainfall has made a lush and lively winter. Baby lambs frolick in the meadows. Pregnant goat moms are heavy with kids as they take their daily walks to browse and fertilize the vineyards. Our duck and chicken friends have recovered from the cold weather with lots of deep orange egg yolks from their free-ranging escapades. The days on the farm are spent managing the farm animals, lettiing them eat the rich green grasses.
My husband and I tend the herd of goats. We milk and walk the goats each day, and bring them special treats like raspberry and blackberry leaves to prepare them herbally for the kidding season ahead. I try to notice which of the does is "bagging up" in the udder, which indicate she’s pregnant. During this month I'll make several trips to the barn to check if anybody is showing other signs of babies on the way. Fresh straw is spread out, and we partition off parts of the barn as the “delivery rooms.” This year, three goats are expecting: Sophia, Cardamom, and Lhasa. I like to be the midwife, helping along any births, and giving the mother a post-partum tonic of molasses, wheat bran, and ivy (a recipe that I got from Juliette Barclay Levi's fantastic work "The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable").
As the sun warms everything up and the days get longer, we’ve been making Biodynamic preparations. They are made at the farm with ingredients from the farm, and stored in ceramic vessels. We apply the "500" preparation in the spring to bring renewed strength and nourishment to the soil. My father-in-law, Luke Frey, has been studying these Biodynamic formulas for over a decade. The preparations foster vitality in the soil and to the farm as a whole. Biodynamics were brought forth by Rudolph Steiner in 1924, and treat the farm as one large self-sustaining organism. We add these "preps" to hand-swirled water vortices, acting as homeopathic medicinal blessings of fertility and creativity for the farmer, the farm, and the planet. Biodynamics goes beyond organic, connecting the soul to the soil. Click here for more information about Biodynamic agriculture.
POSTED WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2015 – By Molly Frey
Frey Vineyards will be hosting the annual Winter Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC) meeting again this January 9th, 10th, and 11th!
The weekend begins Friday January 9th, with a lecture from Dennis Klocek of the Coros Institute on the topic Where is the Elemental World? From the course description: "The fundamental question is how can those who work with nature establish a relationship that is personal to the forces and activities that lie behind natural phenomena? Starting in the crystal heavens of the alchemists, Dennis will present the layers of forces consolidating from the cosmic etheric realm through the etheric formative realm to the elemental realm. At each stage meditations will be suggested that can help to link the consciousness of the worker to these particular kinds of phenomena and the beings who stand behind them. Topics will include: the four ethers; crystallization of gems; alchemical planetary influences through the seasons; salt and sulfur in plant growth as symbolic consciousness; and the spagyric process of the alchemist Paracelsus as a meditative tool for research."
The lecture begins at 9am and goes until 5pm. There will be a lunch break and a suggested donation of $85-100; nobody will be turned away for a lack of funds. Registration is available at the door.
Saturday the schedule is open to the public and free (for the full schedule with a timeline please go here). There will be a keynote speech by Dennis Klocek at 10am and also a Nature Walk with local author Kate Marianchild at 2pm (her book, "Secrets of the Oak Woodlands" was published by Heyday this year). Bring a potluck item to share at a delicious farmer lunch gathering midday. Biodynamic preparations are often available for purchase, and for those interested in more information about biodynamics and the BDANC, this is a fine event to attend! Sunday's meeting brings together the BDANC staff to discuss topics within the organization.
POSTED WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2014 – By Molly Frey
I recently interviewed Julia Dakin, a local horse woman here in Mendocino County, California, about the horse powered work that’s been happening on the Frey farm. A life-long horse enthusiast, Julia got interested in draft horses a few years ago. She wondered if it would be possible for local vineyards to convert to horse power to do the work currently done by tractors. She met up with Luke and Lily Frey, who have been experimenting with draft horse work on the farm for the past several years.
Luke and Lily have been working to develop a rapport with draft horses on the Frey farm. As they built relationships with the horses, they have branched out to harnessing the horses and accomplishing farm tasks and logging with the horses on the land. Julia noted that logging with horses is one of the most environmental ways to do forestry management, as the horses are able to get into more narrow and tight spaces with far less impact than a road and heavy machinery. The horses get to exercise, and the land gets tended more gently. This last spring, Andy, Bonnie and Lola (the horses), accompanied by Luke, Lily and Julia (the humans), pulled logs out of the forest, tilled the garden beds on the ranch’s biodynamic farm, and tested various implements in the vineyard.
From experiences with the horses, Julia took her research a step farther and enrolled in online classes by Elaine Ingham in soil science. Her studies led her to the field of no-till agriculture. As she’s been delving into the world of soil, she’s been postulating that horses might be able to create a niche for vineyard management, by practicing no-till methods with a roller-crimper tool that is hitched to the horses. Instead of tilling up the soil with a disc, which disturbs the soil life (worms, bacteria, fungi), the roller-crimper moves between the vineyard rows to smash down the cover crop.
If Julia’s work with the horses is successful, they may have a more efficient system of converting cover crops into soil fertility. Also, using the roller-crimper helps sequester carbon in the land, while protecting and nourishing the layers of soil ecology already in place. Julia also hopes to find through current research on test plots, that the soil being worked with the roller-crimper both enriches the land and could prove to be a cost-effective enterprise for local grape farmers, whether or not they use horses. Julia currently has horses that she’s working with to amass some data to look at the roller-crimper horse-power at different sites. Should her efforts prove qualitatively impressive, Julia would like to expand the ways that local vineyards become carbon sinks instead of a carbon source, by transitioning to more horse-powered tasks: seeding cover crops, mowing, roller-crimper, and perhaps harvesting.
Additionally, as part of the biodynamics program on the farm, we prepare a unique blend of organic, homeopathic herbal sprays that we apply to the crops to nurture soil fertility. At present, Julia and Luke have been having some horse-powered spraying sessions to see how the horses fare as the deliver mechanism for these potent land medicines.
There are several factors to weigh in about how and if a farm would convert to a horse-powered technology. Julia is quick to note that with the prevalence of cheap oil and the speed of mechanical inventions, horses have been relegated to a technology of the past. However, with the use of more innovative techniques, like no-till, horses may well prove themselves to be able to compete with mechanized technologyfor the lesser impact they have on the carbon footprint of the land and for the potentially important contribution to increased soil fertility.
For more information on Julia’s research with the horses, follow her blog at organicnotill.com
Click here for a YouTube video clip.
POSTED MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2013 – By Christian Saretzki
Milk was never appealing to me. It was rather tasteless and too watery, not to mention the fact that it came in a plastic bag on which the words “homogenized” and “pasteurized” were clearly highlighted. That is part of what I experienced growing up in a big city like Bogotá, Colombia. At least, to balance things out, home-made cooking was the norm and grandma’s love for the kitchen could turn any store-bought produce into a delicious meal.
For the past six months I have been working and apprenticing at Luke Frey’s Biodynamic Farm at the Frey Ranch in Redwood Valley where I have been given the task of milking two lovely Jersey cows and turning their milk into a variety of dairy products, especially cheese.
Where it all begins.
Could raw milk really taste so delicious? Could real butter seem so yellow? Could fresh whey be so sweet? Could the cream that rises to the top be so thick? Could one fall in love with the art of making cheese and devote oneself to tending the wheels as if they were tender living creatures? These are some of the questions that confronted me as I entered into this commonsensical way of living.
The farm also produces an abundance of seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruits as well as fresh eggs. Meat is harvested once or twice a year from the different farm animals in a humane and conscious way.
With this vast array of wholesome ingredients the possibility of creation is limitless and the sacrificial act of cooking and eating brings satisfaction beyond measure. When one sits at a table and beholds the many simple delicacies that have been handcrafted and gathered within an eighth of a mile radius, it becomes a healing experience that nourishes the whole of man. At least this has been my experience.
Emily (wife of Luke Frey) and Christian with the final product!
Thus, it’s not surprising to find that when one participates harmoniously with the stream of life, it has the potential to evolve further through our own efforts. So, in a sense, real alchemy is at our fingertips as long as we become familiar with and respect the integrity of life. For this, the farm environment offers an ideal setting for greater learning, enjoyment and exploration.
Our cheese is not for retail sale, but you can try it at our Wine Club events at the winery!
POSTED FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2013 – By Molly Frey
Blackberry hedge next to Frey organic and biodynamic Chardonnay vineyard.
Hot summer days have brewed up delicious batches of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and basil. Our Mediterranean climate offers us a diverse crop of annuals to accompany the vast bounty of vineyards coming into fruition. The gardens are producing all kinds of delectable veggies, but the grapes are still getting the solar power they need for their glory in the Fall. I watch the grapes ripening each morning as I walk the rows, the clusters getting bigger and bigger as the weeks go by and the sun shines down. When the summer heat has passed, the fruit will be plenty plump and their sugars rich enough for the harvest!
Ripening organic grapes.
In Spring, my food foraging walks in the vineyards began with ripe mulberries; now there are peaches, too. The blackberries in the hedgerows are wildly stretching their tendrils. Besides providing food and habitat to local wildlife, they are one of my favorite foraging delights.
Ripe peaches in the vineyard!
The grapes take center stage as the heat wanes and the season shifts to cooler days and longer nights. Last but not least, our olive trees will be ready to give their gifts to the press for full-bodied oils. When enjoying a bottle of Frey Biodynamic wine, we hope you will appreciate the terroir of the land that encompasses the richness of not just the grapevines, but the diverse array of flavors, in concert.
Organic olive tree in Frey biodynamic vineyard.
POSTED TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2013 – By Katrina Frey
Frey Vineyards’ core values include purity, quality, truth in labeling and transparency. We choose to hang our hats on the Demeter Biodynamic Farming and Processing Standard that embodies all of these same principles.
This chart shows a concise history of the Biodynamic timeline and the foundations of Demeter:
Biodynamic® is defined by the Demeter Farm and Processing Standards and is protected via a certification mark, which is an inclusive type of trademark. Demeter International is the first, and remains, the only ecological association consisting of a network of individual certification organizations in 45 countries around the world. Demeter US has 163 members and reaches over 10,000 certified acres.
I’d like to point out that Demeter US was formed seventeen years before the USDA National Organic Program (NOP); following the evolution of farming practices in the last century, one could suggest that Biodynamic agriculture is the parent of organic. At Frey Vineyards we adhere to the Demeter Farm Standard, which incorporates NOP practices, but goes a step further because it retains the view of the farm as an integrated whole.
The Demeter standard requires whole farm certification. 10% of total acreage must be set-aside as wild area to promote biodiversity. Because the farm is managed as a self-contained system, fertility is generated via the integration of livestock, compost, green manure, and careful crop rotation. Disease and insect control are addressed through botanical species diversity, predator habitat, and attention to light penetration and air flow. The use of the preparations is required. There are eight preparations in all, made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures, that are utilized in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies are for humans.
The Farm Standard is historically significant because it dates back to the beginning of the modern sustainable agriculture movement and captures key agronomic principles not comprehensively addressed within any other agriculture certification system. As such, Biodynamic agriculture represents one of the highest paradigms of sustainable farming, and offers one of the smallest carbon footprints of any agricultural method.
Standards are developed democratically, seeking input from farmers and processors and then vetted and voted upon annually by the international Demeter board. The standards are living and evolving and deserve respect from everyone who cares about Biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophy.
You’ll notice that the standard does not attempt to certify a farmer’s spirituality or understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. We believe this is outside the scope of our work. However, we do observe that once a farmer begins to seriously apply the principles and practices of the Demeter standard, they are often quickly led to powerful personal insights.
So how does the Demeter standard inform what we do at Frey Vineyards? We plant leguminous cover crops for soil fertility (top left in photo above). We make our own compost from on farm ingredients (). All the herbs for the preparations are grown on the farm, and then applied to the vineyards and gardens (bottom left). And eventually the grapes are harvested at the peak of ripeness. Frey wines are then crafted and labeled in accordance to the Demeter Biodynamic Wine Standard ( ).
Over 32 years we’ve trained several hundred interns and aspiring farmers. Other Frey ranch activities include working winter grains into our cover crop rotations. We are doing everything we can to battle GMO’s and educate our customers and fellow farmers. And we continue to develop appropriate power for the winery.
In conclusion, Frey Vineyards is committed to the spirit and spread of biodynamic farming, starting with our children, our family, and our community.
John Muir was thinking about Sacred Connections when he wrote:
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast, by a thousand invisible cords, that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe."
POSTED THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2013 – By Molly Frey
We waited five months for all the baby goats to arrive and finally last March our herd of mothers delivered the next generation!
Baby goats in vineyard.
Ten baby goats joined the farm family with 8 of those being billy goats (males). Only a few weeks old, they're already learning how to play with each other by butting heads and frolicking in the fields. Each day Daniel herds the rambunctious crew to the vineyard in front of the winery where the grass is particularly lush this season. We've been having lots of visitors who come to meet the goats.
Baby goat nibling on a grape stem.
Last week, in all the excitement of walking the goats back from their pasture to the barn, one baby black goat got left behind. The little billy must have been hiding with the cows or the sheep who were also enjoying the pasture when the goats were called in. When we went back to get him, we were delighted to find that the little goat made new friends with his pasture neighbors the cows. In fact, he had established a special bond with Maybelle, who happily allowed him to nurse to keep his energy up while his goat mother was unavailable!
Sweet spring days of milk on the Frey farm! This orphaned goat found a bovine surrogate while its new step-sibling looked on. Later it was returned to its mama goat.
POSTED MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2013 – Adapted from a presentation by Katrina Frey at the
BDA conference, November 2012
When I heard the words “Sacred Agriculture,” the first thing that popped into my head was that I was raised by a mother who believed in fairies. I’d like to tell you how those fairies led me to Biodynamics and eventually to the beautiful land in Mendocino County in Northern California that was to become Frey Vineyards. My mother discovered her fairies in the woods and brooks of Vermont, but managed to find them again in the perennial garden she created in the backyard of our little house in Holland, MI.
I would spend hours nose down in the lilies of the valley under the lilac bush daydreaming about the hidden intricate world of the fairies and sometimes spotting evidence; a broken stem or little flower caps strewn upon the ground were signs of a night of wild revels.
But eventually I grew up, went to a Quaker College, became a Vietnam War activist and a hippie and moved to California, and generally got distracted from the fairies. Still, I managed to spend parts of each summer working with my grandfather in his perennial garden. He would chat with his garden and ask it what it wanted him to do next. I came to see the dozens of beds as a responsive and living being. By now I was seriously considering a career in the nursery business, so when I heard about a Biodynamic Agriculture conference at High Mowing Waldorf School in New Hampshire, I decided to check it out. I was thunderstruck with the beauty of a display of sensitive crystallization images.
Sensitive crystallization provides the viewer with a visual preview of the unique fingerprint possessed by a given substance.
The deep, hidden, exquisite intricate order thrust me back into the land of fairy and I vowed to learn more about Biodynamics.
Returning to California, I apprenticed with Alan Chadwick. Fellow apprentices were Jonathan Frey, who was to become my husband, and Chris Tebbutt of Filigreen Farm in nearby Anderson Valley
Alan Chadwick raspberry pruning demonstration.
Chadwick saw man’s central occupation as a gardener and farmer, always giving back to the land selflessly and being rewarded with the glorious abundance of nature. He taught us the French Intensive Biodynamic method, lectured on Rudolf Steiner, introduced me to the Revolutionibus, the rhythms of the cosmos, the Archangels and the elemental beings. My fairies were back.
After a year and a half of apprenticeship, Jonathan and I got married and moved to the Frey Ranch in Mendocino County and started to lay the groundwork for Frey Vineyards. Today we have grown from 100 to 1000 acres.
Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley, California
We farm 140 of the 1000 acres with the vineyards meeting the edges of the forest. At Frey Vineyards we delight in the biodiversity of our land, whether it be the native wildlife in our forestland, the cover crops replenishing our soil, or the multi-talented four generations of the Frey Family who live here. Each of them has their unique experience of SACRED AGRICULTURE.
Clockwise from top left: Luke Frey; Johnny Frey; Karla, Rob & Leora Gitlin; Matthew Frey.
Luke Frey, my brother-in-law, has made it his job to produce all of our Biodynamic preparations and to care for our farm animals with great devotion. He is a master prep maker, studying with Hugh Courtney at the Josephine Porter Institute and completing Dennis Klokec’s Consciousness Studies Program.
We have a lot of hard-core gardeners on the ranch. My son Johnny, seen here double digging our garlic bed, is a devotee of Yogananda, who saw God in all mankind and taught man to seek for meaningful work and then perform it in a sprit of gratitude and service.
Karla Frey’s garden anchors her to the Jewish cycles of celebrations. The Sukkat festival reminds us that God will provide for man’s needs and man in turn must be grateful.
Brother-in-law Matthew married Sandra from Bolivia and has embraced the Inca philosophy of no separation between man and nature. Matthew’s garden is his sense of connection. He says, “If I’m late at planting it, it calls me. I save my seeds and somehow they know me the next year. Every time I add a garden vegetable to my meal, it becomes a part of me and keeps my body and mind and spirit balanced.”
As you can see, we have a beautiful rainbow of philosophies about SACRED AGRICULTURE. At the same time Frey Vineyards is a big business selling 92,000 cases of wine across North America, Europe and Asia. So how do we communicate our agricultural practices to our customers?
Stay tuned for the second part of Katrina’s article on Sacred Agriculture in our Spring Newsletter.
POSTED WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2012 – By Katrina Frey
The harvest of 2012 promises to be one of exceptional quality here at Frey Vineyards for our organic and Biodynamic® vineyards. After two challenging years, 2010 and 2011, which were marked with late soggy springs and early wet falls, we finally have a picture perfect year.
During early June when the grapes were flowering, the weather was just right: moderate temperatures, clear skies and no wind. If it is windy during the 10 day flowering period the delicate blossoms can “shatter,” which means they fall off and the clumps are tattered. We’ve had a hot, but not too hot, dry summer that our organic grapes have loved. Biodynamic sprays have protected the vines and there was very little, if any, mildew problems here in Mendocino County.
Harvest began in early October with the picking of Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. In addition to our permanent vineyard crew, we’ve had the help of fifteen extra people to work in the cellar and the vineyards. Everyone worked really hard to get the grapes in with the most amount of care. In contrast to the previous two years, all our varieties will be picked before the first rains, except for the Cabernet, which is known for its weather resistance and thick skins that can hold up to moisture. All of our 2012 fruit is of beautiful quality: perfect sugars, great acidity, and no mold. The wines of 2012 will show slightly higher alcohol levels than the past two vintages because sugars are higher when the grapes are allowed to come to full maturation.
In the next two weeks in the vineyards we’ll plant this year’s winter grains, as well as our traditional cover crops of legumes that add nitrogen to the soil. Our work in the vineyard is always looking ahead, but we relish the thought of enjoying this memorable 2012 organic vintage!
POSTED THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012 – By Molly Frey
Sonoma County's wildest food fest is coming up next month, and Frey vineyards will be hosting a wine tasting booth throughout the event. Please come visit us as we discuss the exciting world of fermented foods, taste delicious wines, and enjoy the transition from summer to autumn.
On September 16th from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm, the "Farm to Fermentation festival" will be filled with ferments, speakers, and music. Held at the Tara Firma Farm, which aims to be a site that is Environmentally Regenerative, Socially Just, and Economically Sustainable, presenters will be experts in the field of fermentation and slow food, including Sandor Katz. Folks are joining together to kick start the first year of this annual celebration. The Freys Band will be performing a musical set, and Daniel Frey will be giving a talk on biodynamic wines from Frey Vineyards.
POSTED THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012 – By Molly Frey
Our Warre beehive swarmed today! We gathered to watch as the buzz intensified, rose up into the air, and found a place to rest in a tall redwood tree.
Life on the farm is full, as baby goats, little lambs, and spring plants take in the warm sunshine and thrive in the lush green landscapes of the farm and vineyards. This past weekend the Frey family hosted an Earth day celebration with foods from the land, to honor the abundance of life in the spring, and to appreciate the land that we all are grateful to be working with.
In biodynamic news, our preparations went to the BD prep-making conference in Colorado the first week of March along with Luke Frey, the farmer who made them. His preparations were judged to be the best of the conference for their substance, smell, and texture in a panel comparison of all the different preparations being made domestically. Go Luke!
POSTED THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2012 – By Molly Frey
The film documentary, "Farmageddon" comes to Ukiah on April 11th. It will show at the Saturday Afternoon Club and is brought to our community through the efforts of local small farmers in conjunction with the Mendo Time Bank which offers an alternative form of economics and community stewardship.
Farmageddon highlights the urgency of food freedom, encouraging farmers and consumers alike to take action to preserve individuals’ rights to access food of their choice and farmers’ rights to produce these foods safely and free from unreasonable and burdensome regulations. The film puts policymakers and regulators on notice that there is a growing movement of people aware that their freedom to choose the foods they want is in danger, a movement that is taking action with its dollars and voting power to protect and preserve the dwindling number of family farms struggling to survive.
For a trailer of the film, please go to http://farmageddonmovie.com/
POSTED THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2012 – By Molly Frey
Today we had twin lambs born to a mother sheep under the warm sunshine, while bees buzzed to and from between the plum blossoms and their hives. We're hoping that we get the rain that would be so greatly appreciated in this dry year; and yet, I hope that the fruit trees get a good run at pollination before those rains come down so that we can have a fine set of fruit later in the year. Farmers and gardeners in our climate hardly had a break this past winter. More days than not the weather has been so warm that hibernation just wasn't an option. As seed flats are promising sprouts for the spring and summer, we're looking to make more and more time in the garden to prepare beds for this growing season. Luckily we have had enough rain that the grains in the vineyards are growing steadily, and all our ruminant friends are pleased with this years crop of grasses and pasture options.
POSTED SUNDAY, January 8, 2012 – By Molly Frey
Just as the winter solstice came to the Frey Farm, our sheep gave birth in the pasture. We've had three lambs born to date to our herd of Navajo Churros, and all are doing well. Baaaa! For more information about this heritage breed, go to the Navajo Churro Sheep Association website.
POSTED FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2011 – By Molly Frey
August 5,6, and 7th in Laytonville, at the Black Oak Ranch, a new celebration, the Gaia Festival will feature wonderful music and sustainable technologies for three days and nights of summer fun. Daniel Frey, part of the Frey vineyards biodynamics team, will be giving a talk on Saturday at the festival from 11:45-1pm titled, "Biodynamics: Life Force Agriculture."
In short, this workshop will cover the philosophy and fundamental practices of Biodynamics, based on the nature wisdom put forth by Rudolph Steiner in 1924. Working with stellar and planetary rhythms will be introduced, enabling the farmer or gardener to achieve marked improvements in crop storage, vigor, germination, etc. Use of the (potentized-homeopathic-herbal) compost preparations will also be described, which elevate the bio-energetic field of the entire farm; this creates produce that nourishes the finer super-sensible parts of the human organism, in addition to the physical body. Other topics will include: cooperation with nature spirits, holistic management of animals, creating a closed, on-farm fertility cycle, associative economics, and developing the soul life.
Daniel's music will also be showcased as "The Freys" (www.thefreysmusic.com) band will be performing several times throughout the festival. Hope to see you there; Gaia looks like a fantastic blend of Northern California music, speakers, and forums.
POSTED MONDAY, JULY 11, 2011 – By Molly Frey
The glory of the summer sun shines down this time of year, illuminating the full palette of colors and flavors in the Frey Vineyards gardens. Out past one vineyard, beyond a blackberry hedgerow, Jonathan Frei works with the soil. His experiments began long ago in his childhood garden where kitchen herbs grew around his New Hampshire homestead.
Jonathan Frei in his garden.
After graduating with a B.S. in soil science from the University of Vermont, Jonathan transplanted himself in the West coast where he’s become an acclaimed master gardener, turning the earth into black gold wherever he tills. He adds that he is a “proud father to three amazing children,” two of which were in the garden when we arrived.
When entering Jonathan Frei’s garden one can see his gardening roots where culinary herbs surround his cabin in the woods. Paths lead out from his home between rows of colorful drought-tolerant bushes, many of which were in full-flower when I interviewed him. I brought my four year old son, Osiris, along to visit, and he found bliss in the several patches of Jerusalem sage, sucking sweet nectar from the abundant yellow flowers.
Little Osiris enjoying Jerusalem sage nectar.
Jonathan and I walked to his experimental garden project, where he is cultivating 20 different types of blueberries amidst native perennial trees, shrubs, and poor soils. We grazed on some of the most successful bushes that have provided a taste of fresh fruit for several years now.
Aside from his blueberry adventures in homage to his Northeastern heritage, Jonathan has a history of making gardens come to life along the West coast. He worked at what is now the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, to lead a team of gardeners there years ago. Later, in Mexico, he started the internationally acclaimed organic garden of Rancho La Puerta in Baja, California. These days, when Jonathan isn’t working at the winery to help produce and promote Frey wines, he’s working with the land, perfecting the art of kitchen garden design, and pairing aromatics with vibrant flowers – all to create a whimsical and functional landscape.
POSTED WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2011 – By Molly Frey
For more food fermentation fun and jollification, join me at the Polcum Springs Ferment Fest in Mendocino County on June 11-12. I'll be there to teach the basics of miso making. Others will also share their skills on how to make kefirs, cheese, live sodas, sourdoughs, and vegan ferments. To register for the weekend camp-out, call 707-972-1364 or go here for more details. Hope to see you there!
POSTED MONDAY, MAY 9, 2011 – By Molly Frey
It's the time of year when the gardens are planted and as we lay out our plans for the beds we try to keep in mind what foods we'll harvest fresh and which foods we'll put by. Besides canning and drying, there are a number of fabulous ways to ferment fresh foods to give them a glimpse of immortality. Our family loves to make sauerkraut, kim chee, and pickled concoctions to keep the bounty of the garden going when the cold months return. These skills of keeping the garden alive help to bring the cycle of the seasons into focus, so that we can sustain ourselves all year long.
Because we're just entering the major growing season, I wanted to spread the word about a wonderful event here in California that will help educate the public about how to make their gardens into food for the larder/cellar: the Freestone Fermentation Festival. It is held in Sonoma County and has everything from classes on how to hone your fermenting techniques, to taste-offs from local fermenters' blends. Held over the weekend of May 20th-21st, the event is a fundraiser for the Ceres Community Project and should not be missed! I'll see you there among the likes of Sandor Katz and Michael Pollan.
POSTED WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2011 – By Molly Frey
Spring is in the air, in the barn, and in the fields! All the animals are enjoying the lush pasture from the rains, and have been steadily munching for months. Our goat herd has grown, and the goats that kidded in March now have attentive young following them on the goat walks through the vineyards. Because of the "bud break" (when the grapevines begin to sprout new shoots for this year's growth), the goats, cows, horses, and sheep are moving out of the vineyards to find forage instead in the meadows and grasslands. The chicken flock has also matured, making eggs for Easter omelets. The free-range eggs reflect the nutritious green grass of the pastures, as the chickens who graze on it have the beta-carotene needed to produce really rich and orange egg yolks. One of our hens went broody and hatched out her first nest of little chicks this week. And we have several "teens" strutting around the barnyard too, enjoying the bugs and grasses that this season brings.
Fresh farm eggs.
POSTED TUESDAY, MARCH 8, 2011 – By Molly Frey
Six kids joined the barnyard scene this week. They came every other day, twins for each of our three mama goats. Everybody is nursing well and looking very adorable in their warm little goat coats. The baby goat below was born just this afternoon and the pictures taken during its first hour. It's being licked clean by its very caring mother while it tries out its legs for the first time on fresh hay.
POSTED FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2011 – By Molly Frey
While we were waiting for the goats to give birth, one of our sheep surprised us with twin lambs!
POSTED WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2011 – By Molly Frey
Our goats are ripe and ready to give birth, all of them are full term. On our goat walks through the vineyards I see the kids moving around from inside their mother's bellies. Goat gestation is about 5 months, and last fall we bred our does to a Nubian buck, which should make them all excellent milking kids. For now, we're keeping the barn stocked with fresh hay, and checking on the mothers all day long. This is the other part of animal husbandry: animal midwifery!
POSTED SUNDAY, JANUARY 20, 2011 – By Molly Frey
January on the farm has the taste of fresh grass for all our hoofed friends. The cows, horses, and goats are pasture feeding in the vineyards again, in-between rows of cultivated wheat and oat. Our herds have the dual purpose of fertilizing the vineyards and keeping the grass populations in check, like live-powered mowers. Our daily goat walks take us through the vineyards to favorite oak trees where acorn browsing gives the goats rich, luscious coats for the winter weather. And, while they munch on the wild blackberry hedgerows, the pregnant ones get a dose of herbal medicine to help tone their reproductive tract before the Spring kidding. We're expecting several births in the next few months, which makes this time of year extra exciting.
Our chicken program has also taken to the vineyards, where egg layers are happily scratching up grubs and weeds along the edges of the cultivated vines. All these animals make the land seem more like a farm, where a walk along the rows now has the sound of moos, neighs, and clucks! For biodynamic agriculture the element of having the animals on the land is especially important because the animals impart a special quality to the land. Additionally, the farm animals help us maintain the land as a sustainable system, which feeds us while we feed it with "black gold" manures.
In the gardens our family members are ordering seeds and getting out old saved seeds from the previous year to grow cabbages, peas, kale, broccoli, and other early crops. I just pruned the raspberries in our garden last week, and the fruit trees are next.
Our biodynamic farmer friend Hugh Williams of Threshold Farm was here for the past two weeks, teaching workshops on apple orchards and pruning our trees using his unique method. We also just hosted the Winter meeting of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California here at Frey Vineyards; it was a wonderful success and inspiring to have all the farmers come together to discuss truly sustainable agriculture amidst the backdrop of the vineyards. Frey Vineyards, which has become a model for biodynamics, was the first BD certified winery in the United States. Also, Katrina Frey is now a member of the Demeter board, spreading the conscious farming movement in the hopes that more farms will join.
For now, it's time to get back out into the fields, making flat mixes to sow our seeds in for the first crops of the year!
POSTED WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2010 – By Molly Frey
After a long pregnant winter our farm is showing the first signs of spring. Among our new farm friends are six baby goats (kids), a flock of lambs, and three growing calves. All of our animals are happily grazing in the vineyards, eating fresh green, biodynamic spring grasses. Cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and horses are all delighted to go to pasture on the spring bounty before the grape buds break open. The draft horses have been in training to work the land for the hay season to come, and the chickens we raised from our own eggs are now beginning to enter their first laying season. Additionally, on the homestead, we've added some angora rabbits and piglets to our family.
If you would like to visit our farm, we are hosting a farm day once a month, (geared to the interests of young children, especially). This month we'll be making our rounds on the property, visiting all the animals on March 13th. We will meet at the Winery at 2pm, and explore the ranch life, rain or shine. Come join us!
In the garden, we're so pleased that Redwood Valley is getting such an abundance of rain this year. The gardens are lush with fava bean cover crops, and we've sown our first spring crop seeds in the greenhouse in flats (brassicas and greens mostly). On sunny days the bees come out to sip sweet nectars from the flowering manzanitas, and from the dandelions that have just begun their season here. We're off to a fine start of the year, and are looking forward to the grape season to come!
POSTED MONDAY, OCTOMBER 12, 2009 – By Molly Frey
In the last several years we have grazed sheep in the vineyards to give back to the soil, and to help create a biodynamic farm, replete with animals. This October our new flock of sheep await the end of the grape harvest to explore the tastes of the Mendocino terroir.
Also, two draft horses joined our family farm this past season. Ready to pull a plow, they are enjoying eating home-made biodynamic hay, baled on our property. Fueled by a sustainable source of Horsepower, they also hope to graze in the vineyards after the harvest.
POSTED SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2009 – By Molly Frey (Photos by Molly Frey)
Late last night, after all the ranch had gone to sleep, we heard a bellowing coming from the barn. The much anticipated births from our cows had come, and the mother, Gracie, was announcing her first calf. This morning we celebrated the calf's first day!
POSTED TUESDAY, JUNE 9, 2009 – By Molly Frey (photos by Molly Frey)
Katrina grew up in Michigan, enjoying the blooms of her mother’s flower gardens. She spent summers working with her grandfather at his perennial flower nursery in Vermont, and came to appreciate her family’s floral heritage. When Katrina first came to California in the 1970s, her impetus for the adventure West was to learn organic gardening with the eccentric green thumb, Alan Chadwick. Her love of flowers blossomed there in the cultivating of perennial borders, as well as her love for her future husband, Jonathan Frey, who was also working in the nascent organics movement. Together they moved to the Frey Ranch in Redwood Valley, married, and began to grow their kinder garden of organic California children. In those formative days the winery was forged out of their mutual adoration of organics, and Katrina partnered with another Chadwick gardener, Charlotte Tonge, to give birth to a perennial flower nursery on the winery land in Redwood Valley. At the height of their propagation glory, the ladies had over 100 varieties of flowers producing, and they continued to bloom for 6 years. When the winery and its organic fruits needed more tending than there was staff, the flower women became the backbone of the Frey Vineyards office.
Today, Katrina plants colors on the canvas of her garden landscape, sticking to the tradition of her Eastern relatives, while incorporating organic gardening into the heart of her mission on the Frey Ranch. Additionally, she’s become one of the ranch’s Melissa, forming an intimate bond with the honey bee Bien (the being of the bee hive, including all the flowers that they take pollen from, the environment where they fly, and of course the bees themselves). You can see Katrina in her garden throughout the year, tending her hives and painting with the palette of possibilities as she plants out her garden. She recommends to aspiring perennial borderist the following suggestions:
When arranging your motif, consider the overall appearance of your border as it will look over the course of the seasons. Your aim is to create the illusion that there are always flowers in bloom. To do so, stagger plantings so that each area will have something to show at any given time. Consider placing the shorter blooms in the front of the border, and the taller behind. Besides probable heights, imagine the bloom itself, and mingle different textures together, i.e. plant side by side the umbel heads of valerian with a bush, showcasing the softness of rose petals. Planting in clumps gives a rich thickness that helps create the physicality of the border and intensifies the floral drama of a particular color or form.
In the last few years Katrina has added to her repertoire of flower wisdom, a love for the bees, and the plants that they seek out. For instance, since Katrina started to keep bees, she has included ‘Gaillardia’ in her border, and looks out for flowers to especially please her wee friends. Interviewing Katrina in her late Spring garden is a delight, seeing her revel in the crescendo of culminating blossoms, cheering with the bees (native pollinators and honey bees alike) for the fertile florescence of a sunny day in May.
POSTED FRIDAY, May 22, 2009 – By Molly Frey (Photo by Molly Frey)
"Laughing, laughing, laughing, laughing,
comes the summer over the hills.
Over the hills comes the summer,
hahaha, laughing, over the hills."
The sun cometh as we enter the longest days of the year with the approach of the summer solstice. To celebrate the return of the glorious heat, our farmers and gardeners have readied their summer scenes with eggplants, tomatoes, basil, squash, corn. We got out our shovels, prepped beds, and planted our annuals – and had some perennial fun as well! In the weeks ahead, the Frey Farm and Garden Blog will chronicle the gardeners and what they're growing on the Frey ranch. Stay tuned for Frey folk interviews, delicious recipes, and beautiful shots of our spring and summer landscapes to help you get a feel for the Redwood Valley terroire, where the grapes for your organic wine and biodynamic wine are grown.
LIttle Osiris Frey learning to drive the wheelbarrow.
POSTED SUNDAY, May 3, 2009 – By Molly Frey
Rain or shine, the gardens of the Frey Vineyards ranch are thriving as warm Spring weather helps the starts take off. The greenhouse is filled with shoots and sprouts of veggies, flowers, greens, and herbs. As soon as the frosts end the greenhouse flats will be planted to yield homegrown organic food for the community over the Summer months. Already our gardens are holding the promise of future roots with carrot, turnip, parsnip, beet, and radish seeds. The cover crop of fava beans that we planted for the winter is flourishing; they help fix nitrogen into the soil, and we'll be able to use some for green mulch, some for delicious food stuffs, and some of the seed we'll save to make this our 5th year with this particular strain of fava bean on the ranch!
Our small herd of ranch goats are lamenting the loss of their vineyard foraging days since the grape buds opened. Now starts the season of creative goat walks as we shuffle them to different pastures while avoiding the tempting vineyards with their succulent new grape shoots. Fed on wilder fields until the grape harvest next Fall, our ladies are milking twice a day, helping us to experiment with new cheeses (a feta, a goat cheddar, and of course our signature chèvre). On the homestead, the cows are expected to calf soon, and the chickens are lavishing in the Spring sun and producing eggs with a fervor that is unparalleled to other seasons.
POSTED SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2009 – By Molly Frey (Photos by Molly Frey)
After a winter of curing, we have our first batch of homegrown, home-brewed olives, just in time for the Spring Equinox!
We harvested these olives last fall. The trees were planted several years ago along the edge of our biodynamic Cabernet vineyard. Most of the fruit hung in shades of green, some with accents of red and black. The olives filled two large 5-gallon glass carboys, along with an assortment of tenacious stems and leaves.
To leech out the bitterness, we rinsed the olives in fresh spring water from last October until the new year. Then we cured the batches by adding garlic, lemons, and salt. Several brines later, we bottled the olives and delivered them to the community. They made great table olives. The year before last we pressed our olives and had our first run of homemade olive oil, which we’ll talk about in a future post.
POSTED SATURDY, MARCH 14, 2009 – By Molly Frey (Photo by Molly Frey)
Since my last post we've welcomed two sets of triplets and one set of twin kids to the goat barnyard. Over three days our three does took their turns birthing and tripled our population of four into twelve! Their Nubian billy-papa has endowed them all with long, floppy ears, and when they run, they look like they're flying with wings sprouted from their heads.
First "Rosemary," our pacifist Nubian momma, gave birth. Her babies have the longest ears, and are fully Nubian. Next, the Oberhasli "Sequoia" spent a long, stormy night laboring with her babies. After some help rearranging the presenting triplets from Lily and Luke Frey, she happily delivered triplets with shorter, floppy ears. Lastly, "Rosemary's" daughter, "Jasmine,” who is part Nubian and part Alpine, squirted out twins almost unbeknownst to us (we were still recovering from the late night midwifery with "Sequoia"). She did start hollering a little louder than usual though, and finally we realized that she'd just given birth to mid-sized floppy eared twins. All the pregnant goats have their babies now, and we're looking forward to making our first batch of goat cheese since we dried up the herd (or stopped milking them because they were pregnant and ready to deliver soon).
My own child, Osiris, who will turn two in May, delights in playing with the baby goat herd. He fancies himself an honorary goat-human liaison, since he witnessed the births and has established an intimate connection with the kids. If we allowed it, I think Osiris would move in with the goats!
POSTED MONDAY, MARCH 02, 2009 – By Molly Frey
Welcome to our Farm and Garden Blog! We hope you will join us through the seasons as we share with you the joys and pleasures of our biodynamic farm and family gardens – along with our methods and techniques of sustainability.
This spring we are enthusiastic that we'll soon receive a loving bundle of kids and calves. Our goats are due to kid as early as this week! The cows are more mysterious about exactly when they conceived (they were with a bull for a long courtship). Since the births are on the way, we wanted to add information about the herbal indications for new mothers.
As a general uterine tonic during the pregnancy, and especially near the end, it’s recommended to give them whole raspberry leaf to help prepare the mothers-to-be for their successful births.
Once the babies are born, it’s nice to give the mother a restorative tonic: a handful of fresh ivy (a bigger handful for bigger animals) along with a bowl of warmed water mixed with molasses. This helps the new mother by keeping up her energy levels while she cares for the newborns and lets her milk come in.
Being sure that the calves and kids get enough colostrum from their mothers in their first days, it’s also likely that the dairy animals with have extra for humans; this rich "first milk" is full of essential nutrients for man and animal alike.
May the spring be fertile and full of life for one and all, as the sunlight returns to greet the blossoms of red clover in the vineyards.