So I’m up in Sonoma now for most of the week, punching down, taking readings and holding down the fort. Which leaves me with me a lot of time for contemplating nature and cooking. So high on the list is to make another batch of Tomato Marmalade given the great reception it’s getting. Then there is the ever present critter population which has shifted as we go into wine-making overdrive. Trust me, I will tie these two themes together at some point.

First the marmalade: after multiple readers advised me to get a Microplane Zester, I went straight down to The Sign of the Bear, Sonoma’s gourmet cooking store, to claim one. Good news: it does make zesting easy and fast. Bad news: it doesn’t cut the zest in strips. And strips are what you expect in marmalade. So I found myself back with my trusty peeler and knife.

The Microplane is a very cool tool. Not a speck of pith in my Zest!

The Microplane is a very cool tool. Not a speck of pith in my Zest!

But you really want thin strips of zest for marmalade. So that puts you back with peeler and knife.

But you really want thin strips of zest for marmalade. So that puts you back with peeler and knife.

The interesting thing about making a second batch of tomato marmalade was that the second five pounds of tomatoes I harvested weren’t like the others. They are smaller and sweeter. Then the available oranges were much smaller than those I found last week. So I ended up adding two instead of one. It’s sort of like making Rhone style wines. You are always adjusting to compensate for the characteristics of the wine that particular season. (And this season, we have a lot to compensate for. The cooler than normal season has caused our grapes to ripen so slowly, they can’t keep up with the natural drop in acid.)

Which brings me in a roundabout way to Biodynamic practices. The core of the system is to create a closed loop. Nothing leaves the farm, nothing is brought into the farm. Everything is recycled.

Okay, we don’t have livestock for manure, but I’m trying to do my bit. As I skin tomatoes for marmalade, I’m throwing the cores and peelings down the hill where the critters can get them. Similarly, when we harvested the Cinsault last week, we tossed the shriveled bunches on the ground for the foxes. Then we dumped the stems from the crusher/destemmer over the hill for the deer. So far, it seems that “recycling” is working. In fact, every time I go to the crush pad to punch down, there are at least three deer hanging around in hopes that I’ll throw more skins and stems out for them.

Judging from the poo I’m seeing, everyone is enjoying tomatoes and grapes these days.

Heres some fox poo. With lots of grape skins in it. Note the stick for size comparison.

Here’s some fox poo. With lots of grape skins in it. Note the stick for size comparison.

But hold on. Someone else has shown up to enjoy tomatoes and grapes.

Look at this huge pile of poo (not stick for size comparison). This has got to be from a coyote. Notice the barely digested mouse in the poo.

Look at this huge pile of poo (note stick for size comparison). This has got to be from a coyote. Notice the barely digested mouse in the poo.

Okay, I lied. I can’t really tie tomato marmalade and poo together in any meaningful way. But hey, Circle of Life, my friend. It’s all about adjusting and recycling. And that’s the most profound thing I have to say today.

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