News from the Farm | November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Beet

Often people give a gasp when they inquire about the number of guests who will be at our farm home for Thanksgiving dinner and we reply casually: somewhere between fifty and sixty. The numbers have grown slowly over the years because our family, friends and farm have too and this year will be no exception. Fifty eight confirmed guests and then some more that we have surely not counted! The dinner is exemplary of everything that makes up the best parts of this little farm here in the Capay Valley: community, camaraderie and of course the blessings of the incredible food. Our community includes members of the immediate farm family — Andrew and Anna and their two towering teenage sons who could most likely eat an entire turkey themselves! Judith’s family always graces the dinner with her beautiful mother, Noné Redmond, one of the our farm’s longest and sweetest supporters and Judith’s siblings, nieces and nephews who live nearby. Our apprentices who hail from New York, Japan and parts of California will be here with a few sisters flying in to see where their big sister works on a crazy organic farm. Some of the farm crew will be with us including Inigo, the resident carpenter, Jan, our relentless and passionate farm manager and her partner Jordan. Our own family, which is now twelve including the two newest members who will be making their first appearances and may not eat much except from their loving moms.  

And the community circle grows wider still to our neighboring farms. Friends from Riverdog Farm who we have worked so closely with all summer will be at the table, and Spreadwing Farm family and interns will be here as well. Fran, the chief organic buyer from the wholesaler Nor-Cal produce, who was married here this fall and has become our fast friend will come for the first time, along with childhood schoolmates and nieces and nephews who now live in the valley with their children. The list goes on and becomes an amazing amalgamation of all of the best we could ever hope for to join us in this special day of giving thanks.

Then there is the food. Everyone brings a favorite dish – almost all have grown their own or use something from their local farm. We are a fearless valley of self reliant crusaders who love gathering, growing and baking! Hallie and Diego have nurtured ten turkeys over the past seven months, both broad breasted and heritage Bourbons, fed them with love and care for this day (and other holiday meals as well). There will be sausage stuffing from our pasture raised pigs, homemade goat cheese, freshly whipped cream from our patient cows, quiches made with eggs from grass fed chickens, Judith’s famous greens harvested that morning, Amon has promised bowls of new german butterball potatoes, mashed and fluffy. The vegetarian and vegan, fermented and aged options abound as well with home cured olives, spicy kimchee, spanokopita and greens, greens and more greens! Wine will be from Rye’s homemade, aged for a year in an old oak barrel and made from plump organic grapes down the road a mile, a red blend that rivals the top shelf store-bought.  To polish things off the pies and desserts all reminding us of natures bounty –butternut squash pies, walnut and almond baklava, persimmon pudding, apple tarts lemon bars and Judith’s delicious blond brownies, to name just a few.

The real day of Thanksgiving here is not just about food I can assure you: there is a huge community game of touch football that kicks off the day, the now valley famous “Turkey Bowl” starts in the early afternoon out in the orchard with cows and sheep watching from the tree bleachers.  Usually covered in mud and sweat the gamers come in as the sun sets with growling stomachs ready for the feast that is about to unfold. Then after the meal is over there is no rest for the full and weary – no! – we must clear the tables and bring in the ping pong table for the annual round of Hurricane pingpong which is an all age inclusive game of running around the table for hours on end, swatting the ball, with three misses and your out strategy.  The victor (and cheater we are convinced) is usually Andrew!  He is crowned for the year and receives the sacred ribbing he is due.

What is almost impossible to describe is the beauty here at the farm on these Thanksgiving days, the falling leaves, the rich, dark moist earth, the smells and processes of nature that are unfolding all around us, quietly, without much pomp and circumstance. No heralding of the earth worms who are breaking each generation before us down, down below our hurried feet, no trumpeting for that magical decay. The hawks, eagles and finches fly overhead without a heed to our antics down below. The bountiful orchards shed their leaves settling in to their winter rest, ready for the rain and the cold of winter. Thankful are we that these things continue on without us, perhaps despite us, never forgetting. We are ever so thankful for this wondrous world.  

— Dru Rivers