Spotlight – Corno di Toro (Bull’s Horn Sweet Red Pepper)

Valley Oak Family Farm

Bull’s Horn Sweet Red Pepper

We’re looking forward to warmer weather so we can start grilling these fabulous sweet red peppers. The Corno di Toro, or Bull’s Horn, is a large, Italian heirloom pepper. It is generally a deep red and can get up to 8-10 inches long and 3 inches around. These are perfect for stuffing, grilling, sautéing, or just in a salad. They are part of the Solanaceae family, which includes other vegetables such as the tomato and eggplant. As with most peppers, they thrive in hot weather….the hotter the better, so the Sacramento Valley is perfect the Bull’s Horn. We expect to have these ready at the Valley Oak Family Farm in time for your Memorial Day barbeque.


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Tip-Planting from seed & reusing old materials

This weekend I started planting seeds. The weather has been rather mild in the new year and I’ve been itching to get going. I’m using the ‘six-packs’ we’ve all seen at the nursery which are great for starting seeds. In fact, I got all mine for free from Lowe’s because they were used and headed for the trash. After I brought them home, I gave them all a gentle wash in warm, soapy water. Why, you ask? Did you know that most plant diseases are actually soil born? I want to be sure I get the healthiest plants I can, so a quick wash ensures anything leftover from the large, commercial nursery is gone.

So if you want your seeds to go from this
to this,


take a little time to clean those old six-packs with a little warm, soapy water before planting your seeds. You’ll be glad when you’re harvesting from thriving, healthy plants this summer.

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I’m chasing a (farming) dream

organic Heirloom tomatoes at Slow Food Nation'...

After 10 years of practicing law, I’ve finally had all I can stand. I’ve hit that point of mid-life career change and decided it’s time, for a change, to do something I love.  So I’m starting a new business, which is never easy on the family in the short-term, but hopefully makes everyone happier in the long run.

I’m starting this year on about 4 acres growing fresh produce. Although the Dept. of Agriculture won’t let me use the term “Organic” without completing lots of red tape and paying a fee, to describe my product, that’s essentially what it will be. No chemicals used in fertilizers or pesticides, all open-pollinated, and all heirloom varieties. I’ll be selling the produce direct to consumer, that is, on a frequency chosen by customers, you’ll be able to pick up a box of fresh, delicious, in-season produce. Prices will of course vary by the size of the box.

We’re really excited to move beyond the extra large garden and go ‘full scale’. I hope to be able to offer farm fresh eggs and possibly other products in the future as well. But for now, I’m going to give in to that inner voice calling from deep in my DNA, shed the white-collar job, and trade my tie for some overalls and boots.

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Book review: Mini Farming-Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

I reviewed this book for the Leas of Lychten blog today. The review, and book, are worth a read.



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A cheap & easy greenhouse


This is a post from last year that I wanted share with everyone again. Although 2012 has provided lots of warm weather this ‘winter’, this is an easy way to help those seeds along.

Have you ever seen ads for greenhouses? They’re usually expensive and take up quite a bit of space. Those have always been the two hurdles keeping me from getting one. I’ve still always wanted one to get seeds going earlier. While a south window can be good, it’s just not the same.

My kids keep their toys in clear plastic containers. I had the thought that I could put my seeds on the patio table and put one of these containers over them for a greenhouse effect. On a sunny day like today the temperature inside has come up nicely.  I’m hoping for sprouts by the weekend!

UPDATE: Temp gauge says it’s 78 degrees inside my box, even though air temp is 57!

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Pole beans vs Bush beans

When I talk about growing green beans with people I find that most automatically envision pole beans. Pole beans are fine and work well for many people, but gave me two main problems – 1. It just took more time and effort to get the line run than I was ever interested in; and 2. I found that the plant plants often withered in an early heat, no matter how much I watered.
Continue reading

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Its time to plant?

February may be the time you start thinking about what you’re going to plant in this year’s garden for most of the country, but if you’ve enjoyed anything like the mild, dry “winter” weve had in California this year, its not too early to start planting now.  While I would probably hold off on the peppers & squash, this is a perfect time to think about lettuce, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, spinach, and other cool weather veggies., especially if you’re starting from seed. So, take stock of your garden area, get a plan together, and get your hands dirty. If you’re not fortunate to have had a mild winter, you can always get your plan together to be ready for warmer weather.

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