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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Our newest little bundle of joy has arrived!

Daddy's little Hazel nut is here! Our newest little bundle of joy has arrived. We couldn't be more excited to welcome our little girl. As our doctor described it, she came in like a bullet train.




It was definitely an exciting and fast labor but not at first. My due date was June 21st and being 4 days early with my son, I was expecting to go into an early labor. Well, that didn't happen. June 21st came and went and I was still pregnant. My doctor actually scheduled me to be induced on June 21st because of low blood pressure and the fact that my son's labor was only 6 hours. They say your labor gets faster and faster the more kids you have.




June 21st was the first day of summer and in Bakersfield there was no doubt it was summer. That week was 110 degrees plus and apparently that causes women to go into labor. Although I was scheduled to be induced, there was an increase in women coming into the hospital in natural labor. There was no room at the hospital for me to come to. So, June 21st came and went and I was still pregnant. June 22nd, the hospital called and said I was first on the list to be induced and they would call me as soon as a room opened up. It was another day of 110 degrees and no rooms ever became available for me.




On June 23rd at 2am I woke up to use the bathroom as I did multiple times throughout the night for the past several weeks. I climbed back into bed to try to go back to sleep. As I lay there for about 2 minutes I feel a sudden burst of water and jump out of bed to realize my water just broke. No more than 5 minutes later I was having contractions. By the time we make it to the hospital at 3am my contractions were 5 minutes apart and I was 7 cm dilated.




It was a fast and furious labor with no time for pain medicine. Hazel Frances arrived at 4:41am.


Photo credit: Stacey Leigh Photography






 
 





Big Brother loves her and tries to kiss and cuddle her constantly. We are working on being gentle and soft touches.





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Ingredient Fudge

As my pregnancy nears the end I've been craving sweets like crazy. I never really had a sweet tooth before I became pregnant. I used to just drink my dessert by having another glass of red wine. With both my pregnancies though, sweets have always been on my mind. I just want more and more of the bad things.


These last few weeks I have really been out of energy. I have not wanted to do much but lay down and pretend to rest. Let's be real, when you are at the end of pregnancy there is no such thing as sleeping. You just kind of lay there and pretend to sleep. So, when I was hit with a few days of energy I ran with it and did some last minute meal prep and baking to stock up on some things before baby arrives. I made a few freezer casseroles and of course did some baking.


If you follow me on social media you know last week I had a burst of energy and chopped up a TON of almonds for some baking experiments. I of course had to make a double batch of my favorite almond granola and then I wanted to try a new recipe that didn't seem to turn out. So, that baking fail left me seeking an easy and delicious sweet tooth recipe that was sure to please.


This 3 ingredient fudge is a winner! It is 3 ingredients, how could that not be a winner. You know I like easy and simple recipes so this is sure to be a staple in my baking recipes for the future. When one of the ingredients is also almonds, you know I have to share it. Of course, when I found the recipe it wasn't almonds and I had to tweak it a little to make it mine.  You can of course substitute almonds for walnuts, pistachios or even coconut would be yummy.


So, give it a try and let me know how you like it...it won't take long at all!





Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Start of Summer

As spring comes to an end and summer is fast approaching it seems that almond harvest will be here before we know it. But first, we must get acclimated to these 100 degree days and the fact that sun and heat are here to stay. Oh ya and before summer starts officially, I'd like this baby out of me!


Our family tree is growing and my official due date is the first day of summer. Deep down inside I was hoping summer wouldn't rear it's head until the baby decides to join us. The thought of being pregnant during the 110 degree days is making me dizzy. So, with two weeks left to go, let's hope it stays somewhat cool. For me and the trees.


Not just my due date is fast approaching, but hull split should also pick up around the same time as baby arriving. Hull split is the unofficial countdown to harvest. When the hulls begin to split, we know the almonds have roughly 4-5 weeks until they are ready for harvest.


Currently, the exterior green hull is done growing from a size perspective. Like my baby, we are just waiting for the almond to reach full maturity.  The exterior of the shell is still soft where it connects to the hull. The inside of the shell, where it protects the meat is starting to harden.


Peaches and almonds are like fruit cousins. Peaches are closer related to almonds than other stone fruit and almonds are closer related to peaches than other nuts. So, let's think of the almond development as you do a peach.


The almond hull is like the peach flesh. Before the peach is ripe, the flesh is done growing and is just protecting the fruit until it is ripe and ready to enjoy. The almond shell and meat is just like the peach pit. As the peach matures, the pit will grow and harden until its ripe and ready to enjoy. The almond shell and meat just need to harden and finish maturing. These last few weeks the almonds will finish developing their oil, sugars and protein content until the hull splits and the almond is ready to eat.




Once hull split comes, the next stage for the almonds will be drying out before we can harvest them. Drying the almonds releases excess moisture and helps the nuts ensure a long shelf life in your pantry or storage container.
As we countdown the weeks until harvest and watch these almonds develop, let's hope the days don't get too hot and this baby decides to come before the craziness starts on the farm!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Put a little gravel in your travel

Do you ever see something and instantly it reminds you of a memory? I get that way with gravel driveways. Sometimes home can feel a million miles away but when I see a gravel driveway it can mean so much to me. And whenever I hear that Rodney Atkins song and hear the verse "Put a little gravel in my travel" it brings back all kinds of feelings.




Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones or something but I've been kind of homesick lately. It's only been a few weeks since I was in Chico last visiting my parents and family, but there's just something about that gravel driveway. It is the first thing I see when I get passed the walnut orchard leading to my parents house. It is the first sign of home. Where I grew up, where I was raised, where I share so many memories of childhood.


My parents have lived in their house since they were married only a few years, so it is the only place I knew as home. Yes, my mom may have remodeled it three times over the course of 40 years. But those walls and the love within them have never changed. There is just something about home that makes you comfortable and loved.


I love my parents house so much my wedding reception was there. In the backyard over looking the walnut orchard and surrounded by giant trees and landscaping of love. The house means more to me than dwelling place, it means love and happiness and memories that will never fade.


Nowadays when I return home, of course things have changed, but the love has not. When I grew up that gravel driveway was lined with large walnut trees and the orchard was filled with almonds. Now it is a walnut orchard all the way around. Once you pass the wood fence surrounding the 2 acres the house sits on, there were giant redwood trees opposite the house serving as a guard and barrier of such. Those redwoods have mostly died off now and newer, smaller trees are scattered across the landscape. There is one lone redwood tree at the end of driveway left now. It is a symbol to me of the change and evolution of my childhood home. My sister and I may not live there anymore, and the house may have changed a little inside, but the roots and foundation of that home will never change.



What reminds you of home?


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Monday, May 8, 2017

What is Milk?

Milk. Most of us drink it or use it as an ingredient on a regular basis. Whether it is pouring milk onto your cereal, topping off your coffee with creamer, digging into a big bowl of ice cream or just enjoying a tall glass of milk. Milk is a daily part of most people's diet.
Some people however, can't enjoy milk in the traditional form. Many are lactose intolerant or have a form of milk allergy causing them to search for milk substitutes.
Lucky for them, there are many on the market now a days. Almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk or whatever you can imagine is now available for those who choose. And these aren't just available in milk form; but cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream are all available in some kind of dairy milk substitute. But lately, this term 'milk' has been under attack.





What is milk?

Merriam-Webster defines milk as a 1) fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young as well as 2) a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow's milk. BOTH are acceptable in our dictionary.
The FDA however, describes milk as the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.
COWS...did you catch that? The FDA specifies cows. So, not only are they are saying seed or fruit milk isn't milk but are they are also saying goat or sheep milk isn't milk either?

Why does it matter?

Well, it matters to a number of dairy industry folks who are trying to make the FDA enforce their labeling requirements of milk. But why now? The FDA hasn't been enforcing this labeling law and thousands others, so why do they care now?


While 91% of Americans consume dairy milk, only 57% of consumers drink dairy milk by itself.
“In addition to half of Americans consuming non-dairy milk, research reveals that nearly all non-dairy milk drinkers also drink dairy milk, revealing that consumers are turning to non-dairy out of preference as opposed to necessity,” People like the taste of substitutes and they prefer it. Yet, they are still consuming dairy milk.
Personally, I buy cow milk. I used to buy almond milk for myself but once I had small children drinking milk, I switched back to cow milk. I didn't want the extra sweeteners and rich taste of almond milk for such young kids.


The problem that some see is that the USDA reported in 2011 that US milk sales were half of their 1980 levels. Some research reveals the global market for milk substitutes reached $5.8 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $10.9 billion by 2019. But, really let's compare that number versus cow milk. Dairy milk global value is still $336 billion U.S. dollars in 2014 and was projected to grow by 6 percent until 2019.


Are we really worried about a less than 2% market of milk substitutes. Honestly, I think the dairy folks have bigger fish to fry and other problems they should be tackling. In a world where we should be promoting and protecting agriculture as a whole, I don't like the idea of one sector of the industry attacking another. Milk is milk. Whether it comes from a cow, sheep, goat, almond, cashew, rice, whatever it is, people are going to call it what they call it.


Instead of pegging one sector against another, why can't we come together to celebrate each other and the progress that agriculture has made. I think it is pretty incredible that non-lactose drinkers have so many options. No more are the days where people have to live without ice cream or yogurt because they can't have an ingredient. That is what our society is all about. We adapt, we change, we find alternatives. So, does it really matter what we call it? Let's enjoy the product and thank the farmer who put it on our table for us to enjoy.


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny







Friday, April 28, 2017

Green Almonds

There are always those trends that seem to pop up and certain people just shake their heads in disbelief over the following or popularity of the trend. Much like those new 'dirty jeans' that everyone seems in uproar about from Nordstrom. Yep, for those that haven't heard, you can buy a pair of jeans with dirt and grease stains on them for $425 from Nordstrom.


People in the working class community just shake their heads in disbelief that something we try so hard to clean after a hard days work, is now a trend. Well, much like the dirty jeans, when I first heard of green almonds I was caught a little off guard. People are paying a premium for what? To the average consumer, I am sure they would look at the price tag and the appearance and ask just what they were paying for. But for the high end foodie, celebrity or royal it may be something they look forward to all year.


So what exactly is a green almond?

Well, it is just what you would think, a green almond. An almond still in the green stage of development during early spring. The hull is soft and green while the inside is like a gelatin. These green almonds are consumed whole. Yep- hull, developing shell and meat in all.  This stage is about a four week window starting early to mid April. There is a second phase that can be available for about a four week window after that. This is when the kernel or meat of the almond is starting to firm up more and the hull is also harder. You wouldn't consume the hull in this stage.

What is all the hype about?

Green almonds are considered a delicacy that originated in the Mediterranean. No surprise, since the almond is a Mediterranean fruit. But there, people have been consuming this delicacy for decades. It is definitely a niche market product in America where you will have to dine at a fancy upscale East Coast restaurant, with the celebs or extreme foodies to find.

Halibut and pickled green almonds- PC: California Almonds
I would say it is an acquired taste. One that some members of my family do enjoy. They say it tastes like a cucumber and has the same texture as a grape.


Green almonds are a niche and a rare product to find on your supermarket shelves. Most who purchase, order direct from a processor who knows what they are doing with this delicate fruit. One specific grower seems to have figured out the market for them to sell green almonds. They hand pick the almonds and very carefully clean and pack them the same day to ship out to the customer. You wouldn't want to machine harvest such a delicate fruit and you want to make sure the tree still has fruit on it for harvest in the fall. We aren't talking large volume here, so hand picking for orders could be done fairly reasonable.


So there you have it. Green almonds in a nutshell. Well, actually green almonds before the nutshell. If you see yourself in a high end restaurant or dining with the queen during the next few weeks, be on the look out for green almonds. Now, you will be informed and aware of what you might eat. For the rest of us we can wait three more months for the finished product!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Last Adventure as Three

The last couple week's I have been a little MIA, especially when it comes to regular social media updates on the farm or the family. Well, we decided to go on one last adventure as three. In a mere 9 weeks, our next little baby H is set to arrive. Our summer will be filled with the new baby and the adventures of raising two, all happening 1 MONTH before almond harvest will begin. That's right, about the time hull split is scheduled to occur and spray usually needs to be applied, I will most likely be welcoming a new baby into the family and taking my farmer husband away from the farm.
Luckily, our family farm has plenty of family around that will be helping out so hopefully my farmer husband can take a few days to help me get used to life as a mom of two.
But anyways, before that chaos starts and before I feel so uncomfortably pregnant, we wanted to take one last adventure as three. When thinking of places to go, relax and explore it seems like the beach is always the first thing to come to our minds. We live just under 2 hours from Pismo Beach area, which is very popular for getting away. It is also the area we went to college, so we are pretty familiar with where to go and what to see.
But I do have to admit, as much as I love the beach, I am more of a mountain girl. I grew up 2 hours from a family mountain cabin and exploring the lake, creeks and trails was always much more exciting to me.
After some contemplation with the husband, we decided mountains would be much more relaxing and change of scenery for us. When discussing where to go, we both made a weird realization. We live 3 hours from Yosemite National Park and neither of us had ever been there. As children, we both had gone on cross country car trips to see Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Four Corners, etc. but we had never been to Yosemite.
That was it. We were going to explore our own backyard vacation hotspot. After some research, I discovered a great vacation rental company, Redwoods in Yosemite, where you can rent a private cabin for your family. The cabins are fully equipped for your vacation needs as they double as private cabins that individuals own and use as well. It was perfect for us. I made our breakfast every morning, packed a picnic lunch for the day and we made it back for dinner every night. We did indulge one night with a dinner out at nearby Tenaya Lodge.  It was a great out of park, not as crowded option for good food.
Staying by the south entrance of the park was perfect for us. It was near the small town of Wawona that isn't as crowded or touristy as the other areas of the park. We were able to go explore and hike around our cabin, walk down to a near by elementary school for playtime, and still be close to a market for last minute food items I forgot.

Our little almond farmer playing in the park
On Thursday, it rained most of the day. But we were able to take in some sights and explore Big Trees Lodge area in between the rain. There is a Pioneer Village just up the road where you can take a self guided walking tour of old buildings and history of the pioneer days of Yosemite. Our little man enjoyed the old farm equipment and knocking on all the doors to see if anyone was home in the cute little cabins.
Rainy day tour of Pioneer Village
The day before we were only about a 45 minute drive from Yosemite Valley and the massive Yosemite Falls. Driving into the Yosemite Valley the sights are incredible. The valley is covered with quaint meadows, trails and the most beautiful waterfalls. This is also the most attractive places to stay in Yosemite so the two big lodges are here and multiple campgrounds, making traffic and parking kind of a nightmare. But we spent a good amount of time exploring the trails, scenic areas and waterfalls.
I was glad we didn't stay here though, too many people for me. I was happy to make the short drive back to our cabin at the end of the day and relax in quiet. It was the best time to go though, the record amount of rain and snow we have received made the falls overflowing with water.

Yosemite Falls

Lower Falls
On our last day we packed up our suitcases, said goodbye to our cabin and made the drive out of the park and towards Mariposa.  This town has loads of history in gold mining and was fun to explore. They have a quaint downtown filled with boutique shops, antiques, alpaca wool store, and olive oil tasting. A few miles up the road there was also a Mariposa Museum filled with old mining memorabilia and artifacts. This was a great little pit stop for us on our way to Chico for Easter.


I would say our last adventure as three was a success. My farmer husband got his history fix, with plenty to learn and read. My little almond farmer got to explore, play in the snow and run all over new places. And as for me. I got to relax with my two boys and enjoy the beauty we have in our own backyard before the chaos of motherhood is about to double!


Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny