Archive for August 2009

Naked Ladies

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The surest sign of the dog days of summer here in the Russian River valley are the naked ladies. Out of the parched earth, just when most wild plants are gasping for moisture, pale green spears of amaryllis belladonna push skyward to remind us that our native plants are adapted to this Mediterranean climate. Further research reveals that they are in fact native to South Africa, and have spread throughout the temperate regions of the world.

In the wet winter the amaryllis bulbs produce abundant green foliage that dies back in May, almost as if the plant has forgotten to flower. Finally in mid-August, as the stalks reach about 2 feet high, dramatic pink blossoms explode with aroma, a welcome treat for my hungry bees. I find naked ladies a perfect color contrast and blossoming partner with lavender: just as the bees are exhausting the purple lavender, the naked ladies are ready to visit.

The fact that amaryllis belladonna is poisonous comes as a mixed blessing, because that makes these hardy beauties also deer and gopher resistant. Go for a drive around west county this month and enjoy them in unexpected places.


Written by Paul Berg

August 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Chuck Williams

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Chuck and EmmaMichael Pollan’ s article in the NYTimes last Sunday about how we love cooking shows on TV but don’t cook anymore got me thinking about Chuck Williams. Pollan introduces his article talking about the new movie about Julia Child “Julie & Julia” ( I hope to see it tonight), and the revolution she started in American cooking with the publication of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 1961. peugeot-pewter-millMy impression of that period of American culinary history is seen from the hardware angle, relating to the other simultaneous revolution started by Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma stores and catalogs. Williams was a cohort of Child in the early 60’s, and from his hardware store in Sonoma introduced copper pots, slicers, roasters and appliances to San Francisco ladies who were just getting caught up in the French cooking craze. During my stint as Williams-Sonoma’s main photographer from 1994 to 2004, I had the opportunity to hear plenty of Chuck lore and work along side him on several occasions. Pollan takes a jab at Williams-Sonoma as the place we go to get outfitted for our weekend BBQ adventures, but I think he’s missing the mark on our cooking demise. pierre-the-pig How can we talk about local food and sustainability if people aren’t cooking? The produce for sale at farmers’ markets proliferating around the country requires food prep and cooking. Here in Sonoma county there are plenty of foodies carrying on the fascination with real food in the footsteps of Luther Burbank, MFK Fisher and Julia Child.


Written by Paul Berg

August 9, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Sustainable Living…

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Sustainable living…What does that mean? Is it just about food? Just about dirt? If you talk to a vineyardist, it seems to be all about dirt and bugs. Many of us have adopted a fairly narrow view of things. We’re specialists and we have to be to survive in our chosen field. That’s all right but let’s relax for a moment and realize that we really want a sustainable world. Sustainable jobs, sustainable health, we want our families to endure and prosper, we want good and healthy neighbors, not enemies.

So I went looking for accepted, useful and thoughtful definitions and low and behold, I found this marvelous Graphic on Wikipedia :

I invite you to study it with me and comment if you care to. It covers more ground than I had considered in the past and has opened up new realms of speculation for me. Let’s rethink our world and begin again to shape it directly, shall we? ~Bob

Written by Paul Berg

August 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm