Posts in Category: trees

Burbank’s Walnut Tree and Mine

It’s been over four months since I’ve posted here.  The way I say it reminds me of confession.   I walked around Pillow Road over Memorial Day, noting how things were shaping up as we move from spring to summer.    One thing that stood out was our walnut tree.

When we moved to Pillow Road, I took note of the walnut tree near the front of the property.   The tree seemed quite old and not that healthy.   I’ve thought that the tree itself is related to other walnut trees growing in Luther Burbank’s Goldridge Farm, which is about a half-mile away from us.   Burbank developed a hybrid walnut tree in the 1890′s that was fast-growing.  He named this hybrid Paradox.  I have no way of knowing if it is that kind of tree but I bet the tree is 50-100 years old.  He crossed the English Walnut and the California Black Walnut.  I wish there were a definitive way to identify the tree species.  Let me know if you know of a way to do it.

I noticed that this spring the walnut tree looked very healthy with its fullest growth.   My son, Ben, who is an arborist,worked last year on the tree, and I have to think the tree responded to his pruning by coming back this year.   Walnut tree

Even better, I saw upon looking more closely that it bears a huge crop of walnuts.  I don’t think we’ve ever harvested walnuts from this tree.

Walnuts - 1

We will have to plan time to harvest and dry walnuts this fall.

Another plant we have from Burbank is the Shasta Daisy.   We got a few plants from the Burbank farm many years ago and they are flourishing.   The flowers come  each spring and seem to last most of the summer, a standout in the garden and easily cut for a vase in the kitchen.

daisies - 1


From the Redwood Forests to the Dungeness Crab

Last Sunday, I had a — this land was made for me for you and me — kind of day in Sonoma County. My nephew, Chase, was nearing the end of his visit so I wanted to show him the redwoods in Armstrong Woods. We went out for a drive through Guerneville to the park and took a lovely walk among the large redwoods.

I like this photo I took, which seems to invite you to go off the path and make your own way, climbing over fallen branches.

Redwoods at Armstrong Woods

Redwoods at Armstrong Woods

Chase easily fit inside the hollow of a redwood. He was fascinated that redwoods are able to survive forest fires with their thick bark. He was amazed that the largest tree, named Colonel Armstrong, was as tall as football field is long.

Chase fit inside a redwood hollow

Chase fit inside a redwood hollow

After our time among the giant trees, we went to Santa Rosa Seafood store to buy Dungeness Crab for dinner. When we arrived, we learned that the crab were still on the truck making its way from the coast. The commercial crab fishing season had opened earlier in the week. We weren’t the only ones eager to have crab for dinner.

When we came back to the store, the clerk told us that the crabs were here but we’d have to cook them at home or wait another hour. I asked for some advice on cooking crab because I had never done it before. The clerk said to throw them in a large pot of water. “For eight crabs, you’ll need about nine pounds of salt.” That seemed like a lot of salt but the process itself seemed doable.

At home, I studied up on how much salt to put in. I found many recipes for cooking live crab that did not add salt. Yet the clerk’s insistence that it really mattered for flavor made me follow her guidance. I ended up putting in a cup of salt per gallon of water. The large pans we used to cook the crab came from our brew room.

The crab were placed in boiling water and cooked for about 20 minutes.

  • The Crab Just Before Boiling
  • Crab in Boiling Water
  • The crabs in the sink ready to be cleaned.

Once removed from the water, the crab were cooled down in the sink by running cold water over them. The next step was to clean them by removing the shell, scraping the gills and other gunk out and running more water over the bodies. Cleaning was fairly easy.

The crabs were soon on the table, served with a home-cooked succotash and my own Ceasar salad. We celebrated Ryan’s birthday and wished Chase well on his return home to Kentucky.

A walk in the redwoods followed by cooking and cracking crab, what a nice day.

Big Oak in the Laguna

We were walking off Thanksgiving in the Laguna de Santa Rosa. I had a chance to admire this big oak tree and its shape in the light late in the day.


The Real Reason To Grow Citrus

The real reason to grow citrus is the fragance of the flowers in the spring. The tree produces mostly inedible sour oranges but walking by the tree in the spring makes you stop. Full stop. Breathe deeply before moving on.


Spring Blossoms at Sunset


Tree Topping


Ben took down a Monterey pine that was unsightly and unstable. He is amazing at figuring out how to do things. I would not be able to climb up six feet into that tree. Ben is comfortable (and equipped) to go to the top, even in a brisk wind bringing in the fog.



Here he finishes taking down the top of the tree.