Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stella finds her first truffles!

Stella is so proud!
Stella finally found her first truffles in the wild, unaided by me, all thanks to Alana McGee, owner of Truffle Dog Company. Tomorrow we go out again, and again and again, because truffle hunting is a team sport. My job is to encourage Stella, to know when she is telling me where the truffle is, and to be able to find it myself. They are hard to see in the forest duff, and meanwhile Stella is off looking for another one as I sift through the dirt. 

Did I ever tell you the story of how I got Stella? 

I was in Port Townsend, feeling sorry for myself because I was lonesome on the farm, and my friend Michele suggested getting a dog. I had never had a dog, being very allergic to them, but I was willing to try. About that time a pair of beautiful curly dogs came walking down the sidewalk right in front of us. "Those look like Portugese Water dogs", Michele said, "and they are hypoallergenic!" We stopped the owners and soon found out they were Lagotto Romagnolos, even more hypoallergenic. I asked if I could bury my face in their fur. This I did for a few minutes, with no reaction. Patti Fischer and her husband Leonard were very obliging, and said they had just gotten the female and were thinking of breeding her with their intact male. I gave them my card, and said if they decided to breed them, I would like to buy one. Three months later they called me from their home in Sequim and let me know I was third in line for a pup. 

In August, when the puppies were 6 weeks old, I was asked to come to Sequim to choose one. I had been trying out Italian names all summer, and settled on Fabrizio if it were a boy, from the movie 3 Coins in a Fountain, where Jean Peters, astride a Vespa, waves her hand as she zooms off, saying "Arrivedella Fabrizio!" If a girl, Stella, for the wonderful character in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire".
Once there, two pups out of the litter of six held my attention. Both apricot colored, the boy was the breeders' choice for me, but the girl wanted me. I could not make up my mind, but had to, since all of the puppies were sold and needed to be chosen. We decided to stay in Sequim for the night, in case I wanted to come back in the morning. I said I would sleep on it, and know by then. At the hotel, after dinner, it was 9 o'clock when I turned on the tv. It was tuned to PBS, it was Saturday night, and it took me a minute or two to realize that the film playing was "A Streetcar Named Desire". Whoa, must be a sign!. I had not seen that movie in 20 years. Suddenly the nighttime downtown scene of flashing neon lights filled the screen, and there, at the top, was the word "Riley's", in big, flashing lights. I picked up the phone and called the Fischers. Stella was my dog. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Raquel Ruis Diaz Comes to Nettles Farm

Changes at Nettles Farm

Raquel Ruiz Diaz, Chef Blaine Wetzel's longtime partner, is lending her considerable hospitality skills to Nettles Farm. As my duties at Lummi Island Wild Co-op increase, I see the need for a steady hand and watchful eye at the B&B, so that the quality of the experience stays strong.

Raquel, who was badly injured in Paraguay a year ago last Valentine's Day, is continuing her complete recovery. While she cannot yet resume the long hours on the floor at the Willows Inn, she is super capable of taking care of the small but important details at Nettles, as well as organizing future workshops and other events. It has been my pleasure to work with her since 2010, and the past few weeks have been a reminder of how much she has to offer.

My work at Lummi Island Wild Co-op has increased several fold as we move into buying halibut and spot prawns, as well as Fraser River salmon, from the Lummi tribal fishers. We marketed the halibut as Salish Sea Halibut, since I have known for many years how much better the flavor and texture of this halibut over Alaska or other Pacific halibut. Its diet is spot prawns and dungeness crab, and it is reflected in the bluish translucence of the flesh, as well as the gigantic flavor. Here are some pictures from the last few weeks.

Salish Sea Halibut Raquel aboard Lummi Island Wild's new tender, the Galactic Ice

Salish Sea Halibut, and Raquel aboard the Lummi Island Wild tender, Galactic Ice

Night time tribal halibut delivery aboard the Solar Ice, Lummi Island Wild's tender

Night time Tribal halibut deliver to Raquel, Stan, and me on the Solar Ice

We have developed a new online store for our Lummi Island Wild products, including the halibut from early this month. Check it out at http://www.lummiislandwild.com/shop/.

Stella is very very close to finding truffles in the field. She can locate 100% of the buried truffle hides now. The next step is to take her out on a truffle field workshop, to translate that skill into the real world. It's more for me than for her.

We planted more than 100 blueberry bushes near the raspberries, and black currants as well. With the amazing spring we are having, pollination is super high, and I expect plenty of berries, Asian pears, and apricots, as well as kiwis this season. Remember, they are yours to pick when you come at the right time!

Stella and Kitty, last year, and this year. Best friends forever.

We are going to be raising our rates in the next few months, as we see how things will shake out with Raquel and other farm staff. If you have plans to come this year, book now and your rate will remain the same.

We are able to accommodate larger groups in each of the suites, if we have advance notice, by opening up the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom, all accessible from either side. As usual, the rate for extra guests is $50/person. Thanks for sticking with me these past years, and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Riley