California Heartland Episode 913 Transcript

California Heartland is made possible by The James G. Boswell Foundation, committed to sharing the stories and successes of California growers. Bank of America, bank of opportunity. Funding provided in part by, The California Farm Bureau Federation, proud publishers of “California Country” magazine. More information is available at . And, by the Almond Board of California; California Almonds, loved around the world, grown in California’s Heartland.

Coming up on California Heartland…

Our open land is under attack—by weeds!

Yellow star thistle is a serious problem in California.

See what‘s being done to stop invasive plants that kill both crops and cattle. You may have them in your own backyard!


You get lost and you kind of forget the every day stresses of everyday life.

Ride shotgun through California’s Heartland as we uncover some popular freeway stops where you’ll go from asphalt to agriculture—at every exit.


Let’s dive into this bucket of bulbs!

Time to get busy with bulbs!  Master Gardener Kristine Hanson has tips on buying and planting!

It’s all next on California Heartland.

Chris Burrous: from your backyard, to the back country, in a field, or on your family table, it’s all about what keeps California moving and growing, this is California Heartland.

Mike Seghezzi: We're in Nevada City, California.

Jennifer Harrison: Meet a man of the land.

Mike Seghezzi: These are string beans.

Jennifer Harrison: For Mike Seghezzi his country property is a place where passion and the past come together.

Mike Seghezzi: The Indians were here over 15,000 years ago we found grinding stones and the big stones they made their meals on.

Jennifer Harrison: Fast forward a few thousand years and this land became home to cattle and crops, but now, it’s threatened.

Mike Seghezzi: Ag land is um…we're losing it in California fast.

Jennifer Harrison: Sounds crazy but, losing it because of weeds. Invasive plants such as this Yellow Star Thistle and Scotch Broom can take over land. Michael, an excavator by trade with a background in soil and viticulture originally wanted to have a vineyard up here. Now, that can’t happen until the weeds are weeded out…

Stewart Nelson: Yellow Star Thistle is a serious problem in California- estimates has it covering about 15 million acres.

Stewart Nelson: This is what yellow star thistle looks like up close. As you can see it becomes this giant mono crop of nasty prickly weeds.

Jennifer Harrison: The prickly weed made its way to California from other countries in the late 1800’s. Experts think it was a contaminant in alfalfa.

Mike Seghezzi: It's nasty, nasty stuff, very powerful and the Star Thistle is just…so aggressive.

Stewart Nelson: Yellow Star Thistle can take away six to seven inches of annual rain fall at a time when plants need it the most. And what happens is it stresses the native vegetation like the pines and the oaks.

Jennifer Harrison: And animals are affected. Cows can sustain eye injuries and horses- if they eat the weed in very large amounts can get Yellow Star Thistle toxicity. It’s a fatal disease that impacts brain function.

Dr. Joie Watson: They end up with an affliction where they can not chew and swallow normally so they bite feed. They'll pick feed up in their mouth and are unable to move it through the mouth and swallow it.

Jennifer Harrison: Dr. Watson, this is a nice healthy horse… this horse obviously has not eaten Yellow Star Thistle. If it had, what would be going on?

Dr. Joie Watson: Likely this animal would lose body condition. She would be thin, some of her bony points would stand out and the disease causes a facial grimace or a smile. They often will have their lips drawn back in a grin like facial expression. In there would be feed, hay hanging out of her mouth and at times they can drool.

Jennifer Harrison: Here at the UC Davis center for equine health, Dr. Joie Watson says thankfully they see very few horses with the affliction. But the fact that it happens at all speaks to a bigger agricultural issue.

Dr. Joie Watson: For me it's so important for horses to have pasture land to graze on. It’s a perfect environment for horses that are grazing animals and as Yellow Star thistle takes over the state; fills up the pasture with its spinney plant, horses have less and less good pasture land. And it's a really big management problem for ranch owners and farm owners to control.

Jennifer Harrison: Back at the ranch Stewart Nelson of all seasons weed control is helping control the invasives.

Stewart Nelson: The material we are using, Transline, is very selective, very safe. But you don't use much, only 6 to 8 ounces per acre.

Stewart Nelson: It is safe, we are fortunate to have such a selective tool we can spray right over the top of grass, oaks, and pines and not injure them. And yet selectively kill the Yellow Star Thistle and Scotch Broom.

Jennifer Harrison: Now here’s where the story gets a little more complex. You see, not all invasive plants are weeds. Some, like this giant reed here were once actually planted on purpose.

Jennifer Harrison: That giant reed, originally called Arundo Donax has the same invasive qualities as Yellow Star Thistle. It chokes out native plants, it impacts wildlife and it can take over land.

Pam Geisel: A lot of people planted that one because you can just stick a piece of it in the ground and it grows. So it's a very easy plant to grow and a lot of gardeners planted it as a windscreen. It has been able to invade waterways and it's a horrible, horrible plant.

Frank Wallace: It is a monster plant- it grows to be almost 30 feet tall and grows very quickly when it's cut without being treated.

Jennifer Harrison: its thought, half of all invasive species in California got their start ornamentally, perhaps planted in your own backyard. Individuals and organizations such as Plantright are on a quest to clear out invasives.

Frank Wallace: Yep, we’re getting some more re-growth here. This is pretty tough. It’s all lodged down so it’s very hard to cut down.

Jennifer Harrison: Eighty five million dollars a year are spent fighting invasives in California. Believe it or not things such as pampas grass, ice plant, and periwinkle are all actually invasives. But with the click of a mouse on Plantright’s website you can find healthy alternatives.

Pam Geisel: This is something called Nolina and it's a great alternative to Arundo as is New Zealand Flax and clumping bamboo.

Jennifer Harrison: From growing gardens to someday growing grapes.

Mike Seghezzi: It's very important in the foothills. This piece of property for a vineyard potential is amazing.

Jennifer Harrison: Keeping California clear of weeds and invasive plants may be an uphill battle—but an important one.

Hi my name is Addy Davis. And let me show you My California Heartland.

This is my goat M&M. Everyday I come out and feed it twice a day, once in the morning, once at night.

Well, I have to catch him so I can walk him everyday. And I can’t catch him because he is probably intimidated by my height. So he runs away from me and gets crazy, so I have to have my sister catch him. She can just walk right up to him and catch grab him.

Once she grabs him I just walk up to him and put a leash around his neck so I have him.

All you have to do is walk up and catch him.

It’s embarrassing because I’m supposed to catch it but I have to have my sister who is 5 catch it.

That’s My California heartland. Thanks for coming.

Chris Burrous: Succulent squash is a gourmet California creation!  It’s grown in every corner of the state … supplying the country with some of the most scrumptious squash in the nation!  Food & Lifestyle expert Laura McIntosh is “Bringing it Home,” from the crops to your kitchen.

Laura McIntosh: Hi everyone thanks for joining me fresh out in the field. We’re bringing in beautiful winter squash for all of our recipes to share with you today. But I’m here with a grower, Art Perry. Hi Art!

Art Perry: Hey, how you doing? 

Laura McIntosh: Hey, thanks for bringing us out to your beautiful field.

Art Perry: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Laura McIntosh: Let’s talk about what you have in the box.

Art Perry: Ok, alright.

Laura McIntosh: Ok, go through these squash with me.

Art Perry: Okay, first of all this is actually the butternut squash. Which, this is kind of, one of my favorites. All of them are good, I enjoy them all. My family enjoys them all, but the butternut for some reason has actually grown to be the most popular- and I agree with that.

Laura McIntosh: Good- because you love it, and it’s actually the field that we’re in today.

Art Perry: Exactly!

Laura McIntosh: Ok and we have a bunch more. Let’s go with this one.

Art Perry: Ok. This is what we call acorn; green acorn. But, it also can be called Danish squash…uh some people call it a Danish.

Laura McIntosh: This one!

Art Perry: Spaghetti!

Laura McIntosh: Pasta squash! 

Laura McIntosh: I love this one, this one same thing. I cut it in half, put it in the oven let it cook for about 40 minutes or so, then scrape it out and it looks just like pasta.

Laura McIntosh: Alright, we have one more. This one!  I’m not real familiar with this one.

Art Perry: Well, this is a Kabocha squash. This has been around for a fair number of years, but I going to say in the last 4 or 5 years it’s become more popular, it’s a good squash. It’s a nice squash to eat.

Laura McIntosh: Alright, we’re gonna’ cook today with them.

Art Perry: Ok, great! 

Laura McIntosh: Hey, thanks for having us out here.

Art Perry: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Laura McIntosh: We have all this wonderful produce at our fingertips. We live in California. We have the best of the best. Which is why we have Nash here today- you’re using a lot of fun stuff. What are you doing?

Nash Cognetti: We’re making grilled quail, broiled quail with butternut squash budino.

Laura McIntosh: Budino!

Nash Cognetti: And we’re finishing it with a drizzle of Saba.

Laura McIntosh: Show them how to do this, budino.

Nash Cognetti: Let’s start with budino, huh?  Let’s start with butter, and we’re gonna’ get that butter a little brown in there and we have a hot pan. So, as that gets going we’re gonna’ get our sage. We’re gonna’ toss our sage in there, and I add the sage in the beginning because you want to kind of toast the sage a little bit. So, once the sage gets going in there, we can get our butternut squash.

Laura McIntosh: Okay.

Nash Cognetti: You can add it all.

Laura McIntosh: Aw awesome, look at how beautiful that is.

Nash Cognetti: And we have that nice, beautiful, little fine dice on that butternut squash.

Laura McIntosh: I was gonna’ say, this is like Lincoln logs, they’re perfect. I mean, they’re perfect you did a great job.

Nash Cognetti: Let’s add the flour to it. As you stir in that flour it’s going to start to thicken.

Laura McIntosh: Like a- oh I spilled- like a roux?  Kind of like a roux.

Nash Cognetti: Exactly!  So, now that we’ve got that flour going in there, we should add our milk.

Laura McIntosh: Ok and this is milk not cream?  Could we use…

Nash Cognetti: This is just good ol’ milk. Because this dish is going to be so rich, you don’t really need to use cream in this dish.

Laura McIntosh: Ok good.

Nash Cognetti: Milk works just fine. So what you’re going to do next is you’re going to bring this up and let it cook for about 2-3 minutes and thicken. So once it thickens you want to remove it from the heat. I turned the heat off on it, so it’s fine.

Laura McIntosh: Ok.

Nash Cognetti: Add the cheese, all of it.

Laura McIntosh: Alright!

Nash Cognetti: Don’t worry about it; this is going to feed like a thousand people.

Laura McIntosh: Unbelievable!

Nash Cognetti: Then you want to add those egg yolks. Go ahead and add them all in right now. You don’t want to scramble them, but if you’re whisking like I’m whisking right now, they’re not going to scramble.

Laura McIntosh: No chance. Ok, a little nutmeg.

Nash Cognetti: A little bit of nutmeg.

Laura McIntosh: All of it?

Nash Cognetti: Freshly grated…go ahead and add all of it. The nutmeg gives it a really great flavor with the butternut squash, especially around the holiday time. What you want to do then is you want to put it into a dish, a baking vessel of some sort. And you want to bake it in a water bath.

Laura McIntosh: Alright!

Nash Cognetti: What we would call in the kitchen, a Bain Marie, which is basically a pan outside of your pan with a little bit of water.

Laura McIntosh: Ok so this sits inside your pan, that’s a little deeper and you add some water. To about where?

Nash Cognetti: About half way up.

Laura McIntosh: Right there?

Nash Cognetti: A third of the way, half way up.

Laura McIntosh: It keeps the bottom from burning.

Nash Cognetti: Keeps the bottom from burning!

Laura McIntosh: Awesome, that’s all we need to know, perfect!

Nash Cognetti: 325 degrees, for about 25 minutes.

Laura McIntosh: So should we show them what it looks like? 

Nash Cognetti: We should show them.

Laura McIntosh: Let’s do it.

Nash Cognetti: We bake it uncovered too by the way.

Laura McIntosh: Oh uncovered! Look at that!

Nash Cognetti: You’ll see that on the top of the budino, you get that nice golden brown crust on top of that budino.

Laura McIntosh: That is perfect.

Nash Cognetti: Fantastic!

Laura McIntosh: Yeah, fantastic!

Nash Cognetti: We’re doing it today with quail. If you don’t like quail, the budino is great by itself. So the quail Laura, I’ve just very simply marinated it with a little bit of fresh thyme, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

Laura McIntosh: That’s it. Wha-la!  Goes in the oven…

Nash Cognetti: Put it in the oven…turn the broiler on and cook it for…eh, 5 to 10 minutes.

Laura McIntosh: How fast is that?!

Nash Cognetti: Yeah, your cooking time will vary based upon your oven. But, you don’t want to overcook the bird. You know, a medium cooked quail is good. So what I’m actually going to do here Laura, this is risky.

Laura McIntosh: I’m watching you.

Nash Cognetti: This is risky I’m actually going to take our budino out. So this is why they call it sformatino. Misshapen, because when it comes out it looks a little…sformatino!  And then we’re gonna’ take our quail, and we’re just going to plate our quail just on top of the budino like that. And we’re gonna’ finish it with a little drizzle of Saba.

Laura McIntosh: Okay.

Nash Cognetti: Saba is made from mosto of sangiovese grapes and they age it very much like balsamic vinegar.

Laura McIntosh: Ok, I’ve never had it and I’m going to taste a little bit of it. What does it taste like?  (tastes saba) Delicious! 

Nash Cognetti: Tastes like fantastic balsamic vinegar.

Laura McIntosh: Another fantastic recipe!  Nash, I actually want to clap for you. It’s fantastic.

My name is Mike Carson, and I’m here doing some blacksmithing. We have everything from barbeque tools, meat turners, fireplace equipment, puzzles, key rings…things like that.

What we have here, this is our forge. By using our blower, every time I crank the blower it blows air up a tube up through the middle of the fire. And when it happens it blows oxygen into the fire, we can get the fire up to a little over 3,000 degrees. Now most of the iron and steel that we use, will actually start burning and melting at about 2,700 degrees so if we’re not careful we can actually make the metal melt straight off of the end of the rod. So what we’re trying to do is get it hot enough to that it gets soft bring it out and work across the top of our anvil.

I’ve been blacksmithing a little over 23 years. I enjoy creating things…the creativity really flows as long as the metal is hot.

And there we have another meat turner for cooking on your barbeque.

Chris Burrous: Pack your bags and grab your boots. It’s time to hit the road with the Ag Traveler.

Gary Gelfand: Interstate 80 is one long stretch of freeway that crosses right through the heart of California’s bread basket—Solano County.
Surrounded by farms and ranches we found some interesting pit stops that take you from asphalt to agriculture—in minutes! Our first stop- Cool Patch Pumpkins in Dixon. It’s the perfect place to stretch your legs by running through the world’s largest corn maze!

Mark Cooley: Gary hey we're over here.

Gary Gelfand: There we go; I knew I'd find you guys.

Mark Cooley: Gary, Mark Cooley.

Gary Gelfand: Oh you're Mark, great.

Mark Cooley: This is my brother, Matt.

Gary Gelfand: Matt, Gary Gelfand, very nice to meet you. So ok it took me a while to find you, this is the actual entrance? The Cooley family has been farming this area for a couple generations until this one decided to get creative with their crops! Let’s go check it out!

Gary Gelfand: We’re going in the right direction right?

Mark Cooley: Yeah, right over here!

Gary Gelfand: Are you sure?! What are we looking at here? What are these things?

Mark Cooley: There's a flag right there.

Mark Cooley: With a number on it…C42.

Gary Gelfand: So that gives you a little bit of direction.

Mark Cooley: So we're right there. We got to go that way.

Gary Gelfand: Alright Mark, we’ve been in here for like 4 hours. Where are we going?

Mark Cooley: It’s only been like 15 minutes.

Gary Gelfand: Alright, it’s only been 15 minutes it seems like it’s been a long time.

Mark Cooley: We’re like right here.

Gary Gelfand: So, this is it?  Huh?

Mark Cooley: This is it!

Mark Cooley: This is an adventure, you can come out here and get lost kind of and you forget all the stresses from work and everyday life.

Gary Gelfand: What do you think about the maze, do you think it's pretty cool?

Maze Participant: Absolutely, it's a lot of fun. Especially with kids you know you can turn them loose, let them do their own thing and just go throughit.

Gary Gelfand: The 42 acre landmark takes a week to make and is also a record breaker! We’re talking Guinness Book!

Mark Cooley: That was kind of cool. We knew that we were bigger than the other record. The other record was like 20 something acres. Hey how many Dads are in the Guinness Book of World Records. You know we're in there!

Gary Gelfand: It may be the maze that got them in the book, but it's the pumpkins that get people to pull off the freeway each fall. Thank you Cool Patch Pumpkins, now on to I-80 for our next stop and that is the Nut Tree Theme Park.

The Nut Tree Village in Vacaville was originally just a fruit stand set up under an old walnut tree in 1921. The location became a family favorite stop on the way to Tahoe or beyond. But eventually roadside shopping malls and fast food chains took its toll and the Nut Tree shut down in 1996. . . It re-opened years later after a major renovation complete with historical museum, shops and restaurants. And this fully restored family favorite. . . The old train!

Marisa Hicks: This is the original engine number 5 of the Nut Tree Railroad. We refurbished it when we reopened the Nut Tree Village and Nut Tree Theme Park.

Jim Holtz: Actually I was at the old Nut Tree in 1988 in maintenance. I got paid to get dirty. Now I get paid to stay clean.

Gary Gelfand: So what are some of the other big rides, besides the train?

Marisa Hicks: The harvest express coaster is definitely one of the big attractions. It's designed to look like a train of fruit crates and the designs of the fruit crates are actually from the Vacaville farmers. Here we have the vineyard balloon tour which is modeled after the balloons you'll see flying above Napa. Vintage Sweet Shop, they have amazing fudge, amazing cookies and they have the famous honey Nut Tree cookie.

Gary Gelfand: The new Nut Tree complex is once again providing good eats and good fun for families on the go. Alright, so that's it for the Nut Tree. Got my original Nut Tree cookie, now it's back to interstate 80 another 12.9 miles to our next stop, Larry’s produce in Suisun. Alright, the final stop. Larry’s Produce, the place is packed. Let's go inside, see what they've got.

Larry Balestra: Kind of a little treasure that no one really knows about…until this day, we still have people say I’ve never seen this- it’s beautiful!

Gary Gelfand: Not sure you could miss this place—Larry’s is a fruit stand on steroids! Selling everything from apples to artichokes, just pull up and load up a wheelbarrow full of California’s best!

Customer: The prices are right so it's good. I'd rather support a local place anyway.

Gary Gelfand: Alright Larry, so I’m just kind of loading up my wheelbarrow, I know I’ve got watermelon in there. What else do I have rolling here?

Larry Balestra: You have a cantaloupe; this is a cantaloupe we started growing this year.

Gary Gelfand: How can you tell when they're ripe and good to go?

Larry Balestra: Full slip. You see this stem on here? If they rip it out the stem you'll still see a little right here, it's called full slip. Nice golden color, fully netted, and you're good to go.

Gary Gelfand: Larry’s has great produce. Here at Larry’s you can even pick your own fruits and veggies. But I think I’ve had my fill…thank you. It’s time to hit the highway and keep trucking' along interstate-80. The next stop, a rest stop!

Chris Burrous: Everyone’s a farmer when it comes to their own backyard, try these tips for doin’ it Home Grown.

Kristine Hanson: In these bulbs, it’s everything you need for a spring garden. There are leaves, flowers, nutrients- Mother Nature even supplies the climate and the water. All you have to do is find a place for these in your garden, plant them and the hardest part is- wait until spring.

Well, not all bulbs look like this. There are tubers, rhizomes like bearded irises. But they all have one thing in common, there’s a little tiny plant inside of them. So, fall is typically when we think of planting these types of things because look at the display here in the nursery, in garden centers and in grocery stores. But you can plant bulbs all year round. So how do we pick amongst all these bulbs?  I’ll show you how.

So let’s dive into this bucket of bulbs. Generally the bigger the bulb, the better- the bigger flower you’re going to get. This is a daffodil, rule of thumb pick the biggest bulb for the type of bulb that you’re going to plant. This is a daffodil, this is a tulip. Really nice form tulip, very solid…stay away from anything that’s mushy or that has a white fusarium mold on it. This black and brown stuff can just be brushed off and is not going to present any problems. Now many times you’re just going to buy them in packages like this. Just make sure, like you would do anything else, turn it over, and thumb through the ones that are in the package. Feel them and make sure there are none that are mushy. These are really beautiful because they are put together by horticulture societies, there’s a real beautiful mix of bulbs.

Although bulbs aren’t real fussy, you still want a good mix in your garden soil. Make sure it’s not too sandy, the water will drain away or too clay like otherwise it’s really going to smother the roots. Make sure you have a soil that holds together and can be easily broken apart. You’re also going to want to use a supplemental nutrient like a bulb fertilizer that has time release nitrogen in it. Just sprinkle a little of that in the soil and mix it in. And while your bulbs do have nutrients in them, this is just going to give them a little extra energy for that long underground growing season.

I like to toss bulbs into the area that I’m going to plant instead of placing them, and then I dig a hole wherever they land. I think it looks a lot more natural that way, although it does depend on the look that you’re trying to achieve. Just make sure that you plant a bunch of bulbs, so you fill in that area that you are planting and save some for cut flowers later. There are a couple ways to plant bulbs, either with a bulb digger or a trowel. A rule of thumb, make sure you dig down 3 times as long as the bulb is tall. In case of a 2 inch tulip bulb, you’re gonna’ want to dig down 6 inches, pull it up, place the bulb pointy side up, with the case of a tulip and then fill in the hole. With a daffy, make sure these furry feet are planted feet first.

So all that excitement for those little brown bulbs, but here’s the pay off- so make a wish for the future. There’s nothing as bright and cheerful as the first signs of spring after a long winter.

Chris Burrous: That’s California Heartland, for more information on any of these stories go to I’m Chris Burrous see you next time.

To order a copy of this show, visit us online or call 1-888-814-3923 the cost is $14.95 plus shipping

California Heartland is made possible by The James G. Boswell Foundation, committed to sharing the stories and successes of California growers. Bank of America, bank of opportunity. Funding provided in part by, The California Farm Bureau Federation, proud publishers of “California Country” magazine. More information is available at . And, by the Almond Board of California; California Almonds, loved around the world, grown in California’s Heartland.