Theme: winter

News from the Farm | January 15, 2024

It’s amazing what some rain can do. In the fall, a bit of rain washes off the layer of dirt and dust and rejuvenates everything. That kind of rain isn’t enough to refill our streams or turn the hills green – that’s what the winter rains are for. At this point, the hills around us are green again, a welcome site after months of brown. Most fields are also green – the cover crops have germinated and are chugging along, despite the cold and wet days, and relatively little sunlight.

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News from the Farm | March 20, 2023

Today (Monday) is the first day of Spring. As Carly wrote last week, so far, 2023 has been a year of more cold days, grey skies, freezing nights, wind, hail, snow, and, of course, lots of rain. Just in the last two weeks we’ve had at least seven inches of rain, and we got 1.5 inches between late Monday night and early afternoon Tuesday. Water levels in Cache Creek rose dramatically, a combination of runoff and a water release from the Clear Lake Reservoir, and there was a lot of standing water around the farm, especially on roads and in the furrows between rows (where we drive tractors and walk when weeding/harvesting), really highlighting how differently compacted and uncompacted soils handle water. Within 24 hours, the creek levels had gone down and almost all of the standing water had been absorbed. It was quite a dramatic change!  [Read more…]

News from the Farm | February 27, 2023

We’re very used to seeing fluffy white almond blossoms at the end of February, but fluffy white snow is an anomaly. Snow in the Capay Valley is rare, but does happen on occasion, and it’s not uncommon to see snow high in the hills to the west. We can’t remember all the dates, and our Beet archives don’t provide a complete record but we definitely had snow in January 2002, January 2008, and January 2011, and other years too. In fact, the only time we’ve ever cancelled CSA deliveries (over 20 years ago) was due to snow – do any long-time CSA members remember when that was? And now we can add February 23rd and 24th, 2023 to that list! Snow started falling late Thursday night and on Friday morning, we woke up to snow on the ground. We didn’t need to cancel the CSA this time; we were able to get all the CSA boxes, tulips, and non-CSA orders harvested on Friday and then most folks went home early. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | February 20, 2023

While it’s tempting to have an update solely comprised of adorable lamb photos, we’ve recently gotten questions about a few things that I wanted to address first! [Read more…]

News from the Farm | February 28, 2022

What has been going on for the last week or so?

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News from the Farm | January 31, 2022

Each week has a rhythm to it, with a fair amount of repetition, but there are new and different things happening each day. Last week was no exception. Here’re a few of the highlights: [Read more…]

News from the Farm | January 10, 2022

And we’re back! 2021 is wrapped up and done and hopefully we’re all are rested up from our break and ready to dive in to 2022 full speed. [Read more…]

News from the Farm | December 6, 2021

LAST CSA BOX OF 2021 – We are drawing to the end of another wildly rambunctious, fecund, fertile, fruitful and vegetableful, edge of dryin’ and dying circle of winterspringsummerfall that became 2021, now fading into the dazed look of where did that year go-ish bewilderment wrought more serious by dust-coughing stretches of cloudless, rainless skies marred only by fuzzy recollections of smoky over-burden where a cough may have meant covid or suspicious glances or the clearing of a throat to finally say that this year has set a new high water mark for all of everything that could complicate and/or celebrate and/or confuse well intentioned good citizen or simple minded farmer or distinguished CSA member or general follower of our travails, who might say to us “well, wait till you hear what happened to me this year!” Phew, here is my echo of that sentiment.

Recalling a little of the past 365 or so since the last year-end wrap up was written, the Full Belly Story this year involved mountain lions venturing close in, enjoying a ewe or two; coyotes who love a lamb; skunks who are merciless when it comes to chickens and bobcats that breech best defenses.  Rock ‘n Brock two Italian Maremmano sheep-guard dogs (who have been know to even guard penguins – not ours) came to the defense.  Rockinbrock, who have little fear, work as a team, sleep with the sheep, and as new additions to our dog fleet here at the farm, provide the rest of the rather affectionate but largely useless doglot a good example of purpose and single mindedness to their task. They work for their kibble.

Rock ‘n Brock on duty

Recall last January when the unseasonably warm fall turned into an unseasonably warm winter and then to an unseasonably warm spring. We were able to farm like crazy. Soils were dry, seeds popped and prospered, and fruit and nut trees were unencumbered with the regular fungal symphony that we play in wetter springs.  Our fruit and nut trees set better than average to abundant crops.

Our four-person fruit crew pruned, snipped, thinned and then picked everything from spring peaches to fall pears. All the plantings of the many types of fruit trees and vines of the past 38 years bore sweet treats. Nut trees made best-in- show almond butters, shelled nuts or candied walnuts; figs and apricots were soft and delectable; peaches were corner of the mouth slurping-dripping good; open pomegranates revealed caches of precious jewels.

These crops were part of the legacy of a warm dry January and February when fragile blooms are vulnerable to a hostile spore hitchhiking to open flower on a drop of moisture, settling there and exploding when moisture and warmth trigger their biological clock. Little moisture (no rain) reduced the number of spore busses leaving the station for Bloomington.

While dry days reward a fruit grower with beautiful treasures, those same dry days mean that there is no break from work. When the soil is dry, tractors are running.  When warm days render the spore world dormant, they trigger in farmers all the bee like impulses and buzz-like itches to hustle.  Our farmer sap starts to run. We planted up. There was little time to breathe deep. This farm, like an insistent child or lover, continually tugged at our collective sleeve for attention.

Moon setting over the western Capay Valley hills

This year has seemed particularly intense. We are generally exhausted here as this last Beet is written. We started our running earlier this past January and it was briefly slowed by rain in November.  I have never, in my many years of farming, seen soil so dry in February. Our hay and grain crops withered unless we had the ability to irrigate them, thus more than 1/5th of our fields produced no crops.

All plantings this year required that we soak the soil with a deep irrigation prior to adding seed.  We started the year in moisture deficit and didn’t recover until the wonderful rain in November.  In response, our crew changed many miles of pipes, and unrolled miles of drip tape only to retrieve it again in the fall.  We tried many ideas like covering soils with mulches to slow evaporation.  We scrambled for water, watching Cache creek run low and then dry for some of the fields we were farming. Uncertainty was met with adaption.

That being said, our little farm enterprise produced wild abundance. Full Belly farms about 500 acres in total. Not all this land grows flowers, vegetables or fruit. The system is curated by a team of nearly 100, that grows soil, harvests sunlight, stewards livestock, and inadvertently feeds an occasional mountain lion, deer, skunk, possum, bobcat or wild pig.  Our Avian life here is remarkable – so many migratory flights each year of starlings, hawks, robins, geese, bluebirds, bats, orioles, monarch butterflies, ladybugs, finches, swallows, and rufus-sided towhees, to name but a few. They all use this place as a touchstone in their migrations.  They are part of a near timeless relationship with this land. We are the interlopers who can understand this association or choose to be blind to it. It is a remarkably beautiful annual delight – they came again!  They choose this as a place to rest and renew and maybe eat a few grapes, moths, aphids or fat caterpillars. Thank you for coming again, hope you had a good rest and restaurant – bon voyage!

The food we grow is less a product than the result of an ongoing process of adaptation, adjustment and renewal. We spend our time balancing observations and new ideas with the need to stay in business. The ‘Stay in Business’ part is a practical mandate that could be a singular focus, but we are trying to balance delight, creativity and curiosity with the way we farm. We do see marked differences in soil texture for example – a big deal to a farmer intuiting that that soft, sweet-smelling soil is better when we stop tilling.  There are more homes for earthworms, or for the actinomyces bacteria, or families of fungi who add the rich smell to soil or help hands to release serotonins to the body as soil is run through one’s fingers. (Yes, to touch the soil is healing and can adjust mood. A remarkable inexpensive therapy for a harried farmer is simply to feel soil and smell it a bit. It can elevate mood and create a sense of well…. relaxation. Try it yourself.)

Sustainability is only possible if there are new generations to replace the old and atrophying. We now have a next gen movement here. There are new energetic replacements for the ‘old and in the way’.  Andrew’s sons, Ellis and Jonas are hip deep in the work each day and are taking a good look at the farm as a place to settle. Ellis as an agronomist and Jonas as the steady good humored trouble shooter.

Jenna, Amon and family are defining and imprinting the farm with delicious treats from the farm kitchen, at farm dinners or at community Pizza Nights and are growing their crop of children who see the work and hear the vibrations of a working organism. They are ingesting the inoculation of romance and serotonins.

Rye and Becca design rotations of animals who graze and remediate the farm while giving eggs, meat, milk and wool.  Their vision is integration of these animals who live a protected life as grazers.  These creatures live their character – scratch, cluck, moo, munch, baa chew, spew – probing with their relentlessly foraging beaks, tongues or supple upper lips. R and B’s children are part of the semi-feral here where survival means hustling a burrito from crew members while mom and dad are washing eggs – grazers in their own right.

And of course, Hannah who can make art from flowers, sees texture in the landscape and gleans plant sprays, stems, seed pods, fruits, and wisps of grass, and converts them into remarkably beautiful arrangements. Her eye catches association and things that another might not see, making new creative combinations and then sharing the work with the Instagram world. Her newly honed skills of driving tractors and planting seeds makes her a versatile designer- calloused but creative, imagination up while throttling down.

We have youth at work: Shannon doing selling, Elaine in the CSA, Ben in trucking and logistics. We are grateful to have their skills here. They are working with our great farm crew – wives, husbands, cousins and friends who have chosen to build this farm with us. They are part of the farm’s renewal and new energy.

2021 is nearing a full year and we have spent the last two years adjusting to the masked menace in our midst, while we keep things as safe and creative as possible. Covid has taken a toll in our social connections, we have seen less of you all in person. But rest assured, we will begin the cycle again. We are interdependent with you all. There are many of our CSA customers and farmers market customers who have been partners in our journey now for more than 30 years. Each choice about sustainability and sanity starts in heading off of this chair and out the door to put my hands in the soil, feel its texture and let timeless connections give me perspective.

Thanks to you all for sharing our journey. We look forward to being your farmers again for another round. With affection and thanks from all at Full Belly Farm.

— Paul Muller


From a foggy morning to an amazing sunset here on the Farm 

News From the Farm | February 22, 2021

The first day of Spring is officially not until March 20, but there’s a feeling in the air that Spring is right around the corner.  In a worrisome note, this has been one of the driest winters we’ve seen.

It’s Community Supported Agriculture Week!

Technically, it’s CSA Week at Full Belly Farm for all but four weeks of the year, but this is the week that many farms and farm support organizations across the country will be promoting CSAs and encouraging people to join. For CSAs that don’t operate year-round, this time of year is a popular time to sign up new members in advance of starting in the spring. We’re in a different situation – we do our CSA year-round and we bring on new members on a rolling basis (instead of requiring members to join for a whole year/season). We also currently are doing just fine on membership and have a waiting list for the first time since starting the CSA in 1992, but we still think CSAs are worth celebrating and talking about. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 15, 2021

It’s that time of year again! The almond trees are blooming, transformed from bare branches into beautiful, puffy white and pink clouds.

In other years, on the last Sunday in February our farm and our neighbors in the Capay Valley host the Capay Valley Almond Festival, started in 1915 to celebrate the almond harvest and later moved to the spring to celebrate the blooming trees. The Almond Festival was cancelled for 2021. But the almond bloom is still worth celebrating. It’s the start of the process that leads to our almonds and the almond butter that so many of you know and love. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 8, 2021

Lamb  Count:  This morning the lambing crew reported that we have 108 lambs born so far, including 17 sets of  triplets.  This photo shows Dru feeding the “bummers” — lambs whose Moms needed a little helping hand taking care of the babies.  —  

Our farming cycle is very linked to the annual calendar cycle and it is a thing for us at Full Belly, before a New Year is in full swing, to look back at what has been learned the year before, hoping to inform our activities in the year to come.  Part of that thinking is to review the CSA boxes from the previous year, imagining a household that got a box every week: What did our members eat from the farm in a year of 2020 boxes? [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 1, 2021

We are so happy to have had rain — and we are hoping for more, much more.  This week’s storm is just a start on what the land needs.  We woke up last Tuesday morning to frosty and freezing scenery, and a few days later the beautiful sight of a ribbon of snow snaking along the tops of the western hills.  Farmers love weather, and this was a big weather week.  As the snow melted, the report came that the snow melt could be seen running down the hills and into the Creeks on the Valley floor. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 25, 2021

What have we been up to for the past two weeks since coming back from our holiday break? The short answer is: a lot!

But a more detailed answer is that as usual, we’ve been harvesting, washing, and packing produce; caring for animals and collecting eggs; repairing machinery; prepping fields for planting; loading trucks; going to farmers markets; and delivering produce at CSA sites and wholesale customers. And we’ve had a few other special activities to report. Here’s a quick run-down of just some of the highlights: [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 18, 2021

As 2021 starts finding its way, I look forward to another year here on the Full Belly patch of land. I love the cool season when bunched greens, beets, carrots and broccoli are on the harvest list, crops that have a less urgent, a less demanding nature than summer’s heavy hitters like tomatoes and melons (I love those too, in their time!) Cooler weather, with its calmer harvest schedule, opens up time for projects, like expanding and rebuilding the flower cooler in the packing shed, something that has been on the list for some years now. This, and other investments in the future of the farm provide a reminder that we have much to be grateful for. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | January 11, 2021

2020 in Photos  — 

We hope that all of our readers had a wonderful New Year and Holiday season. During our Full Belly Farm break, we enjoyed gardening, home improvement projects, farm maintenance and time with family.  We fired up our greenhouse and got ready for seedling production, we laid a new concrete slab on the south side of our packing shed and ordered seeds for 2021.

This week, we are going to present one photo from each month of 2020. Some of the same cycles pictured from last year will continue in 2021.  Twelve photos can’t tell a year’s story — there are so many people not mentioned and so many activities not remembered.  This is just to whet your appetite!


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News From the Farm | January 20, 2020

It is remarkable how busy our farm continues to be, even with short days and cold mornings.  It is true that there are fewer crops to harvest, but we also have a smaller crew.  The year-round crew is here of course, but a lot of folks take extended time away during the winter.  People will start returning in a few months.  Our Farm Dinner dates have been announced, as well as our Spring Open Farm Day (Saturday April 25th).  We are also trying to figure out schedules to enable many of us to leave next week for the Ecological Farming Conference in Asilomar.  In the office, we feel tax season on the way — no sooner have we closed December payroll than we have to create W-2 and 1099 forms for everyone. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | March 4, 2019

At a time like this, when the weather is in the news, Californians may have a hard time holding their own in a weather conversation with the rest of the country.  I was talking to a friend who lives in Okoboji, Iowa and they have been shoveling snow for the entire month of February.  I think she said that they have 2 feet of snow on the ground at the moment.  They would love it if they had temperatures in the 40s and 50s like we do here… [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 25, 2019

Almond Festival wood-fired pizza at the Rumsey Hall last Sunday –

I’ve been an intern at Full Belly for over one Full Belly year. Today I’m going to take this opportunity to share with you a sneak peek into what it means to be an intern at this very unique place, as I reflect on my experience and what I’ve learned.

First I’ll begin with some numbers. In my time here as an intern I’ve seen, met, lived with and/or been a part of: [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 18, 2019


More like Winter

It’s wet.  In the last week, we have seen nearly five inches of rainfall here in the Capay Valley.  That is almost one quarter of our annual recorded rain! On Thursday morning, Cache Creek crested at 11,000 cubic feet per second ripping through the floodplain.  I watched full-sized trees carried effortlessly down the river. Then, less than five hours later, the river retreated to 3,000 cf/s in an amazing display of our watershed in action. Friday left us snow-capped peaks to dazzle over. As the weather played cat and mouse, I watched in awe. Rainbows, warm sunny moments and cold torrential rain were blended seamlessly throughout the day.  As the sun returns this week, I watch the water slowly recede into the ground and I cannot help but sigh with relief. I know that on cold wet days like these, trees tap their roots down a little further. Buds on the trees take one more day to swell before they flower and fruit. Birds wait and rest one more day before spring brings the nest. The carrots shiver and sugar their flesh as they await the farmer’s hands.  And the farmer waits blissfully as the storm passes, eager to sow the new season’s crops. [Read more…]

News From the Farm | February 11, 2019

Stop Plastic Bags!

One advantage of being a CSA member that you may not have thought about is the very significant amount of waste that is removed from the landfill by a CSA program compared to the grocery store alternative.  We have done a little bit of analysis, comparing the packaging for the first 4 CSA boxes of the year to the packaging that we would have used if we had sold the same produce to stores, restaurants and wholesalers instead. If we had sold to stores, we would have packed the produce into 1,095 waxed cardboard boxes, 319 non-waxed cardboard boxes and 61 plastic 25-lb bags! The plastic bags and waxed cardboard boxes generally end up in the landfill so the CSA results in a pretty significant reduction in the waste stream.   [Read more…]