Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can't a Girl Have the Blues??

This old fashioned "Juice-O-Mat" is a key ingredient to a sunny Sunday morning. Oh, and our fresh oranges are a big part of this.


Ok, so I had the blues on Sunday, but it wasn't a BAD thing; it was great.  For the third or fourth year in a row, we celebrated the squash harvest at Dos Pasos Ranch on Santa Rosa Creek Road in Cambria,with our friends George and Beth Kendall and a cast of other friends we've known for decades.

Every year Beth bakes up a collection of heirloom squash for us to taste and evaluate. From our evaluations, she can make decisions for planting next year's favorites. We all take the task seriously, dipping into the squash, rolling it around in our mouths, and deciding if we would make soup, casseroles, or pies with them. This year she chose a selection of blue squash (some of them turn colors when baked), and we dipped into them with gusto.

The entrance to Dos Pasos Ranch. I am a good customer of their outdoor farm stand, which is kept stocked with squash, gourds, big bouquets, lemons, limes, oranges, and avocados. Their prices are reasonable, the produce is fresh, they have an "honesty piggy bank" (which I LOVE), and the drive out Santa Rosa Creek Rd. has always been one of my favorite–especially when the neighbor's hens are gleaning from along the fence lines.

The old barn and farmstand at the entry to their drive. LOVE these California barns, which are so essential to the survival of barn owls.

The entryway.

Entry rocks.


Blue-eyed Beth and brawny and brainy husband George tend fields and keep up with the newest offerings of heirloom seed. One drawer in the kitchen is stuffed with seed catalogs. Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  are two of her (and my) favorites, and many of these squash came from them. That is my sweet husband Jeff behind Beth.

Fresh from the field and fresher from the oven.

Every squash is labeled and in order on the evaluation sheets.

We worked our way down the line, bite by bite. Please note: Double click on the image to see how I rated the squash. Queensland Blue was great, but there were so many good ones.

It looks like Vicki and Dick Greene are having serious deliberations.

No fair comparing notes you two.

Buck and Lucy are less serious.

Part of the joy of this day is the pot luck. Here is an offering of local, freshly picked grapes and some local cheeses. This was so gorgeous it deserved to be immortalized.

About a dozen tables were set up outdoors, either on the back terrace or the wide, welcoming front porch. What could be better than being with good friends, eating fresh local food, (and wines from some attending grape growers), in the rolling, golden California hills?


I'll have to admit, this is one of my favorite people in the world. His family has lived on the rich land of Green Valley in Cambria for over 100 years. He is married to one of my other favorite people, Susie. For many years Susie made the great wreaths at Heart's Ease. She also stepped in when the business got too big for me to keep up and made barrels of pot pourri for me. Susie and I have taught cooking classes in their large country kitchen on the ranch. We're a good team, and we enjoy every minute together.

Beth and George keep their farmstand (and parties) supplied with glorious flowers.

And their land is rich with native perennials like this Zauschneria californica, which is a favorite of hummers.

But one of the best parts of the annual squash tasting is the children. Each year more kids get involved in not only the tastings, but also the fun. Nothing is better than hearing the laughter of happy children...

and the laughter of "Uncle Bruce" who all children love. Bruce owns the famous Squibb House Bed and Breakfast on Burton Drive in Cambria. If you come to the central coast and want to be in the heart of historic downtown Cambria, you'd enjoy staying there.

A few years ago, after taking the UC Davis olive oil intensive class, Jeff and I hosted an olive oil tasting at our home. Twenty two different oils were evaluated (all labels were covered) and we had a ball. Now, I look forward to big crops of a variety of fruits and vegetables. They're a great excuse to host a tasting. Think about it now and plan and plant ahead. You'll be amazed by the enthusiastic response by everyone, even the youngest participants.

Sending joyous wishes to you,


P.S. No matter where you live you'll enjoy my new Lowe's Garden Grow Along blog posting about bringing nature indoors and using it for your holiday decorating. Please drop in and leave me a comment.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sharon, Won't you please tell us the name of the favorite squash? Love all these great photos from California...beautiful as always. Kay Guest

Sharon Lovejoy said...

HI KAY and other curious souls,

Just double click on the evaluation sheet and you'll see how I rated them. So were desserts in themselves. Others...well, stringy and bland.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

HI KAY and other curious souls,

Just double click on the evaluation sheet and you'll see how I rated them. So were desserts in themselves. Others...well, stringy and bland.


From the Kitchen said...

Wonderful photos of a good time. I especially like the golden light on the entry photo. What dedicated growers to have a squash tasting. I'm going to send a link to your post to the two farmers in our CSA.

Delightful post!


Claus said...

Lovely, lovely post Sharon! Never heard of squash tasting before!, then again, it's something - I am sure - that people do not do here. At least in a popular/common way. What could it be tested here, I wonder? Coffee I know, as the country is a coffee producer, but for that kind of testing people need to be experts of the highest rank. And there are plenty of vegetables and fruit around to be tested! Now I'm curious. I'll find somehow if that sort of activity is done here, and who is qualified for such a thing.

Question: what is an honesty piggy bank? Never heard that before!

have a lovely day!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Now that looks like a very fun way to spend the day. What a beautiful place to live and have such a nice farm stand.
I think the idea of a tasting party sounds so fun, especially if it's local food or drink. A friend of mine had a wine tasting and we all chose the cheapest Trader Joe's one as our favorite above some much more expensive ones. :)

marcia said...

What a terrific to look forward to....a great tradition.

A tasting party, that is so cool. Hmmm what can I plant next year to have one here! A good winter planning project.

The photos are glorious. I'm so happy you share your life with us.

happy day!
love to you and jeff

Unknown said...

simply delightful!
Nothing like a " casual California gathering/tasting..." that is sure to keep you smiling all winter long!
LOVE the photos of the ranch and the golden hills of California...Brings back sweet west coast memories for me!

I LOVE this idea of a food tasting party... We attend and judge a Beer tasting every year with our " beach crew" and its a ball!
Thanks for sharing the fun and ideas too!
Much love,

Pondside said...

What a wonderful get-together. It's so important to maintain the diversity in the food we grow, and it's getting harder and harder. Thank heavens for people like your friends!

Lili said...

Oh how delightful, I LOVE squash! It made me giggle seeing the tiny squash bits and your fun doodles on that eval sheet! You're so cute! And I have never seen a pink sunflower, that was beautiful! What a fantastic gathering in an awesome setting. xo ~Lili

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

I just have to say you two have way too much fun! I'm also grateful that you share your fun with all of us! I'm blue because I can't drink that delicious looking orange juice in that first photo.:( xxx Nancy

Barb said...

Wonderful friends, delicious food, good wine, and a fabulous spot to share it all - seems like a perfect recipe for a party! I enjoyed your photos of the evening.

Rosaria Williams said...

A perfect autumn post, inspiring and interesting.

scrambledhenfruit said...

Ooohh...I've done tomato tastings, but never squash! I have to admit that other than the Queensland Blue, I've never even heard of those varieties. It does look like a fun time was had by all!

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon - How fun was this! ( We love squash here at our house!) Such fun seeing you and your friends - a wonderful and interesting evening - you really do always seem to involve your self in the most creative manners - this would be a day that I would have loved!

I am off to see your Lowes blog - another great thing that you do so well!

(My hubby is posting his favorite family recipe that we make with squash - next week - be sure to come and see it!)


Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Oh, you do have a charmed life Sharon!
I so loved reading this and seeing the pics! What a fun time!
Hugs too,

debra said...

I love your technical terminology - Yum, yum, and YES, Yes!
thanks for sharing. what a magical adventure,
with love, Debra

Zuzana said...

What a lovely post, so comforting. I love my visits here as every time your words and picture speaks of beauty and love for people and nature.
Your views are magnificent, i would love to live in place with eternal sunshine.
Sounds like you had a lovely day despite the blues.;)

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

My I thought you were out on the East Coast.
How I love squash...any kind.
Looks like you had a fantastic time of it.

Jan Hennings said...

Beautiful blog,posts and photography!

Elizabeth Seaver said...

What a fun, beautiful event. Thanks for taking us along as you tasted. My mouth was watering!

Anonymous said...

Sweden is a poor country when it comes to squash! There are a few that sells varieties that isn´t grown big time commercial but now those places are threatened by the EU. They will have to pay a huge amount for every variety they sell to get them certified, every year!!!! The seeds will become so expensive that no one will buy them and the businesses will go bankrupt. Big protest are going on here now, but I´m afraid it might be useless.

I´m used to buy seeds from oversees via the internet so I can get seeds anyway, but those that doesn´t have a computer (they do exist even here :-) ) or are afraid of buying via internet will not be able to get seeds from more rare varieties. That p.... me off!

It does look as if You were having a great time and I like the looks of that barn!

Have a great day now!

the REAL girl said...

Hi Sharon!!
Loved your last couple of entries- I just LOVE that part of the world! The tables of squash and that plate of cheese all looked scrumptious! My youngest daughter, who is in vet school, is contemplating going to UC Davis for a PhD- maybe we'll meet someday!

lilylovekin said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it. What a wonderful way to get to taste all those interesting looking squash.

FarmHouse Style said...

What an extraordinary event. I'll bet the aroma alone was divine. Thanks to your ratings, I now have a couple of varieties I would like to explore for myself.

I also wanted to thank you for the kind and encouraging comment you left for me the other day. I am happy to report that all is well.

I have enjoyed wandering around your site. I will be back soon.


Laura said...

Hi Sharon,
I only recently started like squash. I'd say, within the last 5 years.
The Squash tasting party sounds like a blast! The fact that everything is local, right down to the pot luck, is amazing. Yum! Yum!
Got a chuckle at the squash splatters on your sheet. :)

Thanks so much for the wonderful comment that you left for me on my blog. It always makes me so happy when people "get" my humor. Not everyone does.... ;p

Your friends have a lovely home and property. Beautiful area!


Johanna said...

what a lovely party! I love the idea of a squash tasting party- how fun! thank you for sharing this with all of's getting me to think about ideas for parties that I could throw.

Anonymous said...

Oh Sharon! Would love a squash tasting party!...pair that with a wine tasting party and you won't EVER get me to leave!! What a magical post...the people in your life are so very lucky! Thanks for letting us peek into your world!

Kale for Sale said...

What a great idea - a squash tasting. I'm putting it in my pot of ideas as a great way to introduce friends to squash other than butternut and an excuse to stock up on a whole cast of squash characters which I find all so irresistable. What fun; all of it. Thank you!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Thank you for sharing. I marvel at the world you are a part of.
Love all the pictures and your stories. Your area is beautiful.
Makes me want to leave the woods - sometimes :)

Snap said...

How wonderful! I love squash and squash tasting sounds divine!!! My Pinetree Garden Seed catalog arrived this last week. My fingers are aching to do some shopping! Thanks for dropping by the neighborhood. Hope you'll be back soon!

Kay's flowers said...

Those are the best kind of blues to have. That looked like so much fun! You are so blessed to be so close to so many people you love. I can say that I am too. All the produce and flowers were amazing. Hope you have a great week.

brandi said...

~what a way to savor the blues!!! a beautiful day it looks you had...those squash pictured are gorgeous in their soft pale colors...i can only imagine the tasting of such...thank you for sharing...warm wishes and brightest blessings upon you and yours always~

Donna said...

Sharon, what a wonderful group of friends you have - all over the country! It looks like you all had such a good time. I truly need to get past my 'butternut squash' comfort zone and branch out! haha Just seeing all those tables set up outside made me long for summer. It is way too cold these days to eat out on the deck here in New England. You do have the best of both worlds! Much happiness to you... Donna

Mozart's Girl said...

Dearest Sharon - the joy leaps from this lovely post! Would love to experience all that. Maybe next year! My dad adores squash, Mum is buying lots of minis at the moment & baking them for him to spoon out - he's in heaven! Wish you'd met them, really!
I just baked an Austrian Spice Cake...the smell is wonderful here in the warm fug of my home kitchen. Allspice, black pepper & cloves, fresh grated ginger...mmm. Wish we could share a slice. Time to feed Alice! Love to you both xoxo R

Drawn to The Sea said...

My goodness, what a lovely day. A squash tasting is a new concept to me. I'm sure your friends would be horrified, perhaps have a good laugh, at my Texan way with basic yellow squash (my favorite leftover breakfast).

Your comment on my blog made me smile. Content is the perfect word.

The poem you inquired about was given to me by a dear friend who passed many years ago. She slipped it, handwritten, in an envelope & mailed it to me after moving far away. Although I've always felt she wrote it, I cannot be certain of its' origin, only of how it came to me.

I'm sure that my friend would be tickled pink to know that the little note she tucked in the envelope that day has become a sweet ritual for you.

Peaceful weekend.


Hi Sharon,
Thank you for your visit to my blog and your kind comments.
Your post is great.
Looks like a fantastic day. So much fun and very interesting.
Have a good week.
Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading this kind of stuff. Thanks for sharing good knowledge