Farming in 2021: Year of Extreme Drought, Heat, and Fire

The year started off with a stand off between a coyote and a vulture fighting for some animal out in the fields. I don’t know exactly what they were fighting over but I snapped some photos of what I could see, without getting too close.

Post battle remains…look like feathers, but I wish it was a rabbit or squirrel!

Back in February the hens were still laying eggs. Thought I would show this huge Aracona egg in comparison to the average sized brown egg.

Remember snow? These pictures were taken back in March when a storm blanketed the mountains and valley with fresh glistening snow!

April warmth brought out the blossoms on the trees, followed by trees loaded with promises of fresh apples, cherries, and apricots.

Believe it or not, the trees were full of developing fruit until they were ravaged before they were even ripe by multitudes of squirrels. It was the most challenging year ever for fighting off the critters. Squirrels were out in force all season, as were the rabbits.

There was still snow on the mountain in April.

Happy to report that the onions had a good year! We planted a field of Candy, Red Zeppelin, and Copra in late April/early May. Onions are a staple crop out here on the farm!

Birds were stopping by on their travels.

Here’s our “new” farm truck! 2017 Chevy Silverado. Purchased at the end of April.

Mt. Shasta blanketed in clouds with a little snow at the beginning of May.

We started about 12 flats of tomatoes from seed. This what they looked like just before planting in late May.

We planted approximately 450 tomato plants out in a back field, thinking they would be safe, as nothing had ever bothered our tomato plants in prior years. We were wrong this time. Even after throwing cages over the plants, squirrels and rabbits methodically ate every plant and poked holes in the drip tape to get water.

Greenhouse with shade cloth and fans to protect the seedlings from the heat. We set flats on top of buckets so the mice couldn’t climb into the flats and eat them.

Omi chose some perennial flowers for her garden from Spring Valley Nursery in Mt. Shasta. The kale plants definitely needed shading!

Planting onions takes longer than most crops and is very tedious. See the small starts in the moisture of the drip line? And you can also see how dry the soil was in general. Tools for laying drip tape in the bucket. We were already repairing holes in the line from the get-go. Animals had a hard time finding any water out in the hills this year.

Mt. Shasta framed by roses in May.
Grapes nicely pruned!
Grapes starting to develop on the vines!
Laying irrigation and transplanting.

We worked in the early morning and evening hours to get all the young plants in the ground before our family came to visit after a long time apart, mostly due to the pandemic.

Kirk, Barbara, Omi, Ina, Ute, Jeff, Sean, and Skye at Omi’s house on the farm in June!
Now it’s finally starting to look like there’s something growing! Cucumbers did very well this season!!! We had to bury the drip lines to keep them out of sight of the critters. We had to order another load of couplers to do daily fixes on the lines.

Potatoes and onions doing quite well in June! I think the squirrels and rabbits preferred melons, corn, and tomatoes(?) Still can’t believe they ate all the tomato plants! Skye shooting his musket to get his aim on target for the squirrels. THEY ARE NOT CUTE!!!

Grapes at end of June!

Shortly after everybody left, the Lava fire began on the mountain. Lightning caused a small fire to start which grew out of control very rapidly. The first picture was taken on June 26th and it grew to what you see in the second picture on the 27th.

By the 28th, I was seriously rethinking why I choose to live here. On the 29th, fire tornadoes were developing and making it difficult for the fire crews to control the spread.

This shows how the smoke was billowing up into thunderheads and reaching up to the next atmospheric level and being pushed back down onto itself. The wildfire drama continues through the remainder of the season…


Caught on motion sensor camera in the melon field prior to covering the rows with agribon. This was back in June.

Here we are in the melon field in July. We left the agribon covering on until the plants got established and we could still clear the weeds. The first picture shows a few rows after hoeing the weeds, a couple rows after removing cloth and before weeding, and the rest still covered. Deanna was visiting while we were hacking away at this field.

The melon plants are clearly growing well in this picture. We covered the perimeter with cages to give a little buffer from the ravages of the critters. The field behind the melons WAS to be a huge corn field that never happened. First, we dropped the seeds along the rows and went in for a short break. When we came back out to cover them with soil, they were GONE…eaten by squirrels…that fast! Before discouragement could set in, we planted again and covered them immediately. They started germinating and popping up through the soil only to be gobbled up about as fast as they arose. We ended up planting a small stand of corn up closer by the grapes. They made it because we started them inside and planted when they were about 4″ high, then surrounded the field with wire cages.

Potatoes going strong!
Nice stand of onions!

Despite all the setbacks, we did not give up! The crops that did make it produced very well! The sky in the background is typical of what it looked like from July through September. The air quality was bad from wildfire smoke and the temperatures were above 100F consistently. We had to get our work done by noon or definitely no later than 1PM, or it was intolerable outside. We didn’t see the mountain for a long time.

Cucumbers in July

Deanna and I went for a drive. The fire worked its way around the mountain.

Here are the tomato plants in early stage from the flats that didn’t get planted with the original 450. They are a little late, but they actually produced quite well!

We are still eating fresh tomatoes in mid November.

Eggplant was growing well, but was also one of the crops we didn’t get to harvest. The critters ate every last one, but this time they left the tomatoes and peppers…go figure!

Back to the melon field… the melons were being eaten, sweet as they are. We weren’t exactly sure if it was squirrels or rabbits doing most of the damage. Well, here’s the proof! Nightly visits by rabbits, despite the 3 rows of electric fencing around the field! Needless to say, we didn’t get any melons to harvest AFTER ALL THAT WORK! Oh well.

August started with another visible fire out by Tennant, on the east side of Mt. Shasta. I can’t remember the name of that fire, and I don’t want to! I’m getting tired of wildfires and heat and drought! None of that puffy stuff in the sky is clouds. It’s all smoke and getting difficult to breath and work outdoors.

It’s understandable, then, that we started dreaming of greener pastures, eh?

So I left for a few days to visit my childhood friend, Lisa, in Washington state. In fact, I made two trips up there since I liked it so well!! I became enamored with the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest corner of Washington. There are temperate rain forests, with flowing rivers, near the ocean, lush foliage with ferns in the under story and moisture in the air. We almost traded the farm to move there, but it was all so rushed. The timing wasn’t right. But oh how beautiful! Above shows the trees locals call Dr. Seuss trees because of the way they reach and branch out. The lovely garden was small enough not to feel like we’d be laboring. Rather, tending our garden with berries as big as our thumbs!

There’s Lisa with me (Ute)!

Snoqualmie Falls in Washington state…lovely water!

Local talk included how little snow was on Mt. Rainier this year. Sure looks like a lot more snow than on Mt. Shasta!

A bit of sad news…we lost Cleo (18 year old cat) in April and Buster our 7 year old chocolate lab in August. It was very sad and unexpected with Buster. Daisy was very depressed, as we all felt their absence. Here’s the three of them together.

2021 was definitely our most challenging year of farming. The heat and wildfires pushed the wildlife down into the valleys where the animals were not accustomed to living. The lack of water brought them to the few sources they could find and that often happened to be on someone’s property or farm, where crops were being irrigated.

However, we do not give up easily, and managed to deliver 400 boxes of assorted produce during the months of August and September to the Shasta County Food Bank. It was a program through CDFA and CA Food Banks Association to deliver produce to senior citizens. It’s a part of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. ..or as our farmer neighbor Erik put it, “SFMNP=Super Fabulous Magnificent Nifty Produce!”

Here’s Jeff with a delivery!!!
Inside of typical box

Meet Jake and Eddy! They are our new little buddies! Skye and I drove out to Etna at the beginning of September to “look at” some pups we found on Craigslist. We brought Daisy with us and she got along with them and the mom, who is 100% border collie. The father is 100% Catahoula. They were the last two left of the litter so we took them both home! We do not regret it. They are awesome dogs!!!

It took a little time for Daisy to totally accept them and to establish her authority, but they all get along well now!

So here’s proof of bear visitations to our valley! It was difficult for me to believe in the talk about bears in the neighborhood until I saw this photo caught on motion sensor camera at Hunter Orchards down the road. The animals are definitely being pushed out of their habitat due to the wildfires, smoke, and lack of water. We have never seen any bears in these parts before…unprecedented!

To add to the bear stories, I actually saw one face to face shortly after receiving this image. I was taking the pups for a walk along the back of the property by the apple trees. As I came to the end of the tree line, I saw what appeared to be a juvenile black bear lumbering down the hill towards the corner of our property. Quickly putting the leashes back on the pups, I looked back up and the bear stopped and looked at me before we both immediately departed in opposite directions. At least they back off when they see humans! Upon later inspection, we found bear fur stuck on the barbed wire and bear scat in the area. I know they were around for a while, but the cooler weather, rain, and with the wildfires under control, they must have moved on back towards their regular digs. I hope!

We finished September with weekly deliveries to Redding. We regularly stopped at Soda Creek on our way back up the Canyon. It was refreshing to see and feel the fresh water of the Sacramento River!

Lots of tomatoes in September and October!!! We pressure canned a few loads of tomato sauce.

The peppers did very well for the few rows that were planted. We also harvested sweet Silver Queen corn for the delivery boxes!

So here’s a faint visual of a rainbow in October as the clouds move in and provide rain to the drought-affected earth.

Farmers all around the valley are turning the soil and planting in anticipation of the coming rains. Mt. Shasta has snow and the puffy stuff in the sky are clouds…the smoke from the wildfires is gone!

With eight of ten days having rain in the forecast and overnight lows in the 40’s, we disked up the fields that we farmed this year and plan to farm next year to plant cover crop to nourish the soil! You can see it did germinate and should be a good stand in the spring!

Here’s a well formed lenticular cloud leading the storm clouds that bring us rain and much need moisture in mid October! Natural glow from the early morning sun!

This is why we’re called Mountain View Organics!

It’s November and the beauteous clouds continue to envelop our skies bringing us fresh lovely water to green up the earth and cover our mountain in snow.

We are optimistic about the weather and hopeful that the future brings us enough water for all creatures and plants who need hydration wherever they are.



2020: The year of a worldwide pandemic, Covid-19. This is also the year I retired from public education after a full 31-year career of teaching. Here’s a shout-out to all the educators out there making the best of virtual teaching and distance learning. We appreciate you! Deanna sent me this image of a retro poster regarding the essential nature of farming. We are happy to produce nutritious organic food for our community!


In this time of social distancing, we have enjoyed our time on the farm, taking notice of the diversity of life all around us. It is a blessing to have this land and space to breath and work.


Bees are the most essential workers of all! Here is a picture of them pollinating the cherry tree. They were spotted on all crops at their time of flowering to aid in a bountiful 2020 harvest!

This little guy was enjoying some sweet grape juice and seemed to get stuck in the grape. Be careful!


Various birds are present on the farm throughout the year. These are pictures captured of a few that stopped and stayed out here for a little while. I would like to find time to really watch and learn what types of birds they are and how many different types pass through. There are many more than shown here. During the farming season, we are busy and don’t always have a camera handy to really show how abundant this land is with birds!


We started with a variety of chicks back in April, mainly chosen for the color of their eggs and their mild temperament. They have a nice coup in which to perch at night and plenty of room to run around. We don’t have pigs this year, so we planted a forage crop for the chickens and extended their space quite a bit. It is a good sized yard. They peck around in there and stay cool under the shade of the lilac bushes. We did end up with four roosters, though, out of about 18 chicks. Two were very dominant and bossy, scaring the older hens to hide and stay perched even during the day. We processed those two roosters for Thanksgiving. The hens are happy now and not afraid to run around!


There are plenty of snakes out and about, especially when the weather gets warm. Mostly, we see gopher snakes, which is good because they keep the rodent population down. We have way too many squirrels out here, so we can use all the help we can get! Green racers are also common. The past few years we have had encounters with at least two rattlesnakes per year. Those are probably also good for keeping the rodents at bay, but their bite is poisonous, so we have to control the population of rattlesnakes.They are beautiful animals, though, and very polite, as they shake their rattle to warn you of their presence. They are not aggressive animals, but you would not want to stumble upon one and startle it. That is how you get bitten by a rattler!

Toads and Frogs

Toads are very well camouflaged in the soil and are often found in damp spots under the irrigation lines. The little bright green fellow is a frog who was found shading himself under the drip line as we were planting. It is good to see these critters out in the fields because they keep the insects in check.


Coyotes are more often heard than seen. I happened to catch this one on camera as it was running through the field next door. I zoomed in real close, so the image may be a little fuzzy, but he looks like a healthy animal. Eat the squirrels and rabbits, OK? Just stay away from the chickens!!!

Here’s Cleo!

Cleo is the sole surviving cat of a litter born on the farm when we first arrived 18 years ago. She doesn’t go out much anymore, but she did her share of hunting in her early years!

Buster & Daisy!

Buster and Daisy are always ready to chase off any mischievous critters around the farm.


Healthy soil is the most vital element of a productive farm!

We begin with organic seed and start our crops in the greenhouse in March and April.


Time has obviously passed to get us from transplants to thriving plants. We keep the weeds in check with some of our favorite tools. Fertilizing is done through the drip irrigation using this simple fertigation can.


Transplanting to the fields and tending the young starts is intensive work and doesn’t allow for much time to take pictures. The pictures above were taken in late June or early July. Beginning in mid-July, we supplied Berryvale Grocery in Mt. Shasta with multiple varieties of squash, followed by cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, pears, and table grapes. Thank you for your support and help in moving the food to the community!

Mountain View Organics!

These pictures were most likely taken in July, when the plants were in growth mode and just about to flower and produce fruit.

Summer Squash!

Dependable and prolific, we never tire of our daily harvest of summer squash! We supplied Berryvale with fresh picked squash three times each week! Thanks!

Our purple potatoes were a hit at Hunter Orchards’ Pumpkin Patch. They moved a couple hundred pounds during the month of October! Thank you!!!

Retirement from teaching freed me up to process the bounty of our harvest! We canned LOADS of sweet corn! Skye got me into using a pressure canner rather than a water bath.

We found time to can multiple rounds of tomato sauce!!!

After blanching , peppers were frozen for later consumption.

Zucchini bread was packed and put in the freezer.

Parsley and basil were hung to dry and put in jars. Onions and potatoes were dehydrated and stored in canning jars for convenient use in cooking!

Seedless sweet table grapes of multiple variety loved by all! Fresh eaten, of course!

All in all, its been a productive year despite the pandemic. We even managed to paint both houses and complete some deferred maintenance around the farm!

Once again…THIS is why we’re called Mountain View Organics!!!


Biodiversity 2019

An abundant diversity of life exists out on the farm. We see and interact with so many different animals, plants, and insects on a regular basis. While so many have not been photographed, this is our document of the few examples we have managed to capture on film.

Daisy and Buster found this little guy in a small den at the corner of our house, protected by the pine cones and rocks that Buster carries back from his walks. We are not sure what type of animal he is, but are suspecting he may be a weasel, due to the rounded ears and shape of his snout and eyes. If he indeed is a weasel, then he is absolutely welcome out here to control the large squirrel population! These photos were taken in April of 2019.

Sean and I spotted quite a long gopher snake as we were working out in the fields. My music was playing from my phone, so I grabbed it and snapped a few pics. Although startling at first sight due to its similarity to a rattlesnake, which we have also seen out here, the first thing to look for is the rattle at the end of the tail. No rattle on this snake! The head is also shaped narrow and rounded compared to the rattler’s triangular shaped head. We like these guys around to control the rodent population!

Rabbits were quite prolific this year! It is challenging to keep them from eating the young transplants in the fields. Some mornings we would see half a dozen at a time hopping around through the fields and later find the tops of the young plants had been chewed. We have tried electric fencing around the fields, but that is expensive in both labor and costs. We tried putting wire cages over the plants and that allowed them to recover and produce.

Here is a picture of the tomatoes with wire cages going down the rows of crops. The cages protect the plants from critters and provide stem support as the plants grow and start to lean over. We also tried the cages on eggplant and peppers this year with success!

It is always a race to harvest these delightful tart cherries at their prime before the birds get them. We allow for the birdies to eat from the tops of the trees, while we harvest what we can from the lower branches.

The Royal Anne tree is old and large and always seems to promise loads of cherries. We share these with the birds and squirrels and whatever other critters might happen to find them tasty and nutritious!


Meet “The Cat,” as we call this lovely unnamed creature who moved onto the farm for the 2019 farming season. The Cat is very obscure and tough to visually capture. These pics were taken with a Bushnell motion sensor camera placed at the side of Omi’s house. We were hearing critter sounds and wanted to know who was moving in. As depicted below, squirrels were the culprits and The Cat was a great champion at moving them out!

Next comes evidence of The Cat catching a squirrel for dinner…


These birds were captured on film by the Bushnell Motion sensor camera. Each bird has a whole flock of friends and family that also live out on the farm.

Mr. Toad is quite camouflaged in the moist earth of the planting trenches beneath the shade of the drip line!

View from corner of summer squash field, with onions and potatoes in sight. Zucchini, zephyr, and yellow squash were among the varieties grown in 2019.

Sweet white and red onions were planted in the same field as the potatoes. Alliums keep pests away from the potato plants on which the pests love to nibble!

We grew Russets, Yukon Gold, and Purple Viking potatoes this year!

This egg was spotted as we were hoeing the young cucumber field. It is most likely an egg of the low flying sandpiper type birds that buzz around the fields all summer.

Views from both ends of the cumber fields as the plants were getting ready to produce.

We supplied Berryvale with both Lemon and Marketmore cucumbers!

A typical Berryvale order of summer squash and cucumbers 2-3 times per week!

A diversity of crops are grown on our farm! Here are a few pics of the peach tree!

Small lizards like this little guy are abundant all around the farm!

Our three apricot trees were quite prolific this season! We shared the harvest with the black birds that lived in and protected the trees as the fruit ripened. They swept down over anybody that walked near the trees, but we just established our presence and let them know that we were sharing!

We grow both golden and red delicious apples.

Marachal Foch wine grapes! Although we did not make wine from these grapes, the juice we pressed was phenomenal! We also harvested an abundance of seedless table grapes for Berryvale.

Skye built this juice press, which works for pressing juice from all fruit harvested on the farm.

Loads of grapes this year!!!

Bird nests in the grape vines, nicely shaded from the summer sun.

Winter squash harvest with sorghum field in background.

Daisy and Buster hunt squirrels and rabbits every chance they get! Cleo is now 17 years old and doesn’t leave the house much anymore, especially since The Cat is stalking around outside. She has done her duty of catching mice and squirrels in her younger years!

Once again, this is why we’re called Mountain View Organics!

July 2017



Silver Queen Corn

The wheel hoe is one of our most used tools



Huckleberry Gold potato flowers with Mountain View Organics!


Most impressive this season are the potato fields!!!  Hoping for yummy potatoes!


Candy onions freshly weeded and standing tall



Galia melons…everyone’s favorite!






Basil and Cucumbers



Skyway tomatoes



Marachol Foch grapes




See you all soon at the Mt. Shasta Farmers’ Market and at Berryvale!!!


New Season New Focus


We are experimenting with making hydrosols from ancient roses. Rosa Damascena,

Rosa Alba, and Rosa Centifolia are the oldest varieties of roses and contain therapeutic qualities and the quintessential rose fragrance that is “complex, fruity, and rich.”  We grow them organically and have lately been picking blossoms daily for steam distillation, which forms the lovely rosewater we use as a spritzer to calm and cool the skin.  Research is ongoing to find the best method of steam distilling and essential oil extraction.  These ancient rose varieties are absolutely the best for this purpose.


The grapes are growing prolifically.

Small clusters of grapes can be seen in the first picture!

The bottom picture is what the apples look like today!  They are growing steadily and shaping up to be a good apple season! The previous two pictures were taken when the trees were in blossom earlier this spring.

Jeff has been busy hilling the potatoes!  We have three varieties this season:

Huckleberry Gold, AmaRosa Fingerling, and Yukon Gold!

Almost finished laying straw mulch to tomatoes prior to setting cages over them.

Zucchini, Zephyr, and Goldy summer squash!

This small field of luscious bi-color corn was planted earlier than the silver queen and with distance separating the varieties to keep them true.

View towards the West with potatoes in the foreground, Luscious bicolor corn in the center, and Jeff in the cucumber fields in front of the apple trees.

We look forward to seeing all our Mt. Shasta Farmers’ Market and

Berryvale friends soon!!


Fall 2016



The annual Montague Balloon Fair at the end of September made for some colorful sights in the valley skies.

We hiked to Squaw Valley Meadow on September 30th, just before a storm came in and blanketed the mountain in white.  These are some of the final views of Mt. Shasta uncovered in 2016.  Sean is didging to the oncoming storm.


Lots of canning and freezing in the fall…here we canned sour cherries that we had frozen earlier in the season and also Fall pears in a light syrup.


The craziest looking potato ever!

Our Robot Coup has worked wonders for cutting and slicing!  We sliced potatoes and leeks, laid them out on cotton towels to absorb moisture, and packed them into quart bags for the freezer.  The potatoes were blanched to prevent browning.

Packed and ready for the freezer, serving size portions for potato leek soup!


Packed freezer, full of good organic food…ready for winter!

Skye bakes the best bread!

Two wonderful Autumn meals:  Eggplant Parmesana cooked by Deanna                             Steak dinner featuring Arend’s grass-fed organic beef with Dave Edmundson’s sauerkraut


Fascination over Skye’s chocolate kirsch apricot Sacher torte!