I am so ready for fall. The summer has been lingering on for way too long and I have just about had it with the endless over 100 degree days. One of the earliest signs of fall is when Apple Hill, located just outside Sacramento, opens to the public every year on Labor Day weekend. Crowds of city-dwellers shed their shorts and swimsuit coverups and get dressed for a day in Apple Hill with plaid shirts, cutoff jeans and boots in a desperate attempt to get fall to make even the slightest appearance.
This weekend was actually semi-cool, meaning 86 degrees so at least some departure from the oppressive heat we have been experiencing for way too long. We decided to really try to indulge in some cool weather by getting a really early start and meeting friends in Apple Hill at 9:30 am in the morning. One of the best farms to get a really early start and get the full fall experience is Sun Mountain Farm, a you-pick apple farm that has been a repeat visit destination for us for years. With friendly owners, a picnic table area and acres of apples it’s a fun adventure for anyone looking to pick their own apples and get a real farm experience.Sun Mountain Farm is a small family farm producing many varieties of apples, blueberries and wine grapes that have been enjoyed in award winning wines from El Dorado County. Apple varieties at the farm include Fuji, Gala, Cameo, Mutsu, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith and varieties rotate as they ripen throughout the season. This year has been a particularly early season so apple picking started two weeks ago and should continue for the season through October. Growing practices on the farm are personally managed with strict attention to sustainable agricultural methods and underlying scientific principles and the apples even though are not certified organic, are grown with limited chemical intervention.Apple you-pick is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm weekends through apple season and during the week by appointment. Definitely call the farm ahead to ensure apples are available for picking as they do get picked over as the season gets busier. Apples are $1 lb. and bags are sold by the $5 or $10 size and you pre-pay prior to picking. Bring cash since the farm does not accept credit cards.Sun Mountain Farm is located at 3000 N Canyon Rd in Camino, CA and can be reached by phone at 530-621-3740. There is no running water available to guests and one outhouse restroom is available. Parking is in a dirt lot on the edge of the farm.
School starts here this week so we are trying to soak in the days of summer before schedules and homework take over. I have been avoiding baking this summer. It’s been a hot one. Turning on the oven is like the worst idea ever on the hottest days. Today it was cooler in the early part of the day so we took advantage and made one of our favorite cookie recipes.
Oatmeal cookies are awesome for school lunches and my tots love them. Even more than eating them they have fun making them with me. I put the bowl on a low table so they can sit safely and add ingredients together. These cookies can easily be stored for the work week and added to school lunches each day.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Lunchbox Cookies
The perfect chocolate chip cookie that packs a punch with a hearty dose of oatmeal.
We are already almost to four weeks into summer around here and the lack of routines and schedules is making us all a little jumpy. I have to admit, I don’t love summer. Sleeping in, seeing friends and going exploring is cool for a while and then my tots start marching off the edge with boundless energy and opressive hot summer days.
This week we had a quick getaway to see some friends at Dillon Beach. I definitely want to share some tips with you since this was our second year vacationing there. If you haven’t heard of Dillon Beach, it’s a sleepy beach on the Marin coast where cool summer days becon those of us overheating in the valley.
This weekend we are unpacking and packing again for our next short trip to Sonoma wine country next week. So ready for some lazy days by the river. We are also going to try to get out for some blueberry picking, farmer’s market shopping and getting some house projects finished. Here is what we are obsessing over around here right now
It’s strawberry and blueberry season in Sacramento and there is no shortage of farms to visit this time of year. The lower foothills have another week or two of prime picking and then we slowly shift to the higher elevations where farms in Apple Hill (Camino, CA) are starting to open. Other berries start becoming available as the summer goes on so keep watching for reviews on some of our favorite farms this summer
With the summer heat our favorite times to visit local farms is at opening time early in the morning or late in the evening. Mid day picking is intense and the heat can make for miserable tots. We advise wearing heavy boots like rainboots or cowboy style boots for extra protection from terrain and snakes, hats and layered clothing. We usually try to bring a picnic whenever we set out to have when we finish picking and lots of water.
Here is our list of the farms that are open now. Many of our favorite farms have already closed for the season or are gearing up operations for next year. This is a list of area farms that are open. If we missed something let us know!
Strawberry You Pick Farms Near Sacramento
You Pick strawberry farm and farmstand.
3501 Jackson Rd
Just a short drive from Sacramento or Folsom, Davis Ranch is a local farmstand that has year-round farm activities for visitors young and old. Davis Ranch is a working farm and produce stand located in Sloughhouse CA. Known for it’s famous Sloughhouse Sweet Corn, we first heard about the farm when a coworker of my Husband brought us a bag of the sweetest corn we had ever tried almost ten years ago. If you haven’t had our famous corn, ask someone who has and they will tell you what you are missing. Davis Ranch hosts events throughout the year along with you-pick vegetables and strawberries. They also offer choose and cut Christmas Trees available starting the day after Thanksgiving and going until the week of Christmas.
During the spring the farm offers visitors farm-grown asparagus and it’s worth the drive! It’s so sweet and fresh that now we only buy asparagus from Davis Ranch. Around the same time, usually April or May strawberries start ripening in the you-pick area. Unlike other strawberry farms this one has raised pots of stawberries that are easy to pick without bending down.
The strawberry patch is located behind the farmstand next to the parking area. If there is no attendant at the strawberry picking area, guests are asked to come to the farmstand where they can pick up baskets and scissors along with instructions for picking.
Expect to spend about 20-30 minutes picking for each basket. It gets hot in this part of California especially during late spring and summer so take breaks at the shaded picnic tables next to the you-pick area and bring lots of water! After berries are picked and baskets are full payment is made back at the farmstead registers. The farmstand takes all forms of payment. Don’t forget to pick up seasonal farmstand favorites like oranges, cucumbers, squash, cherries, melons and more!
We like to pack a picnic and cool off in the shade after we make our purchases. Since school groups can sometimes be visiting the farm too, a picnic blanket is recommended if the tables are full. There is no running water at the farm so plan accordingly. Restrooms are outhouse style.
On our recent trip with visiting family to Amador’s Wine Country we discovered another winery that is the perfect escape from the city. Helwig Winery is located right in Plymouth, CA and about a 30-45 drive from Sacramento. Our favorite time of year to visit this region is during spring when it isn’t too hot and views of rolling hillsides and flowers are everywhere.
Helwig Winery is a new, state-of-the-art winery located in the heart of picturesque Shenandoah Valley. The tasting room and other winery buildings offer unique modern architecture and a relaxed country vibe that instantly transports you to somewhere other than wherever you came from that day. Outside patios with incredible spanning vista views are available for picnicing and taking a bottle of wine to savor.
Almost every other tasting group at Helwig the day we went included babies and young children. It was nice to see families taking in wine country in a tot-friendly environment. The winery offers multiple tasting experiences including cave tours and concerts are hosted at the winery pavillion throughout the summer months. The winery asks that tots under the age of 14 not join their parents in the tasting room or on cave tours. Since the winery does host events and weddings, calling ahead to make sure the picnic area is available is advised.
Viognier, Zinfandel and Syrah are some of the most widely acclaimed wines from Helwig and we took home a bottle of library Syrah to have with grilled hamburgers and spinach strawberry salad that evening.
Helwig Winery is located at 11555 Shenandoah Rd., Plymouth , CA and is open seven days a week from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. Advance reservations are required for Cave Tours and Tasting groups of 6 or more. Parking is a large paved lot and restrooms are available along with covered picnic areas.
The year we moved to El Dorado Hills we started taking weekend drives out to Amador Wine Country to get away and slow down. That same year we watched a modern new winery taking shape on a hillside along Shenandoah Rd. in Plymouth right in the middle of the Amador County winemaking region. We promised ourselves we would visit as soon as they opened the winery for visitors. That was five years ago. It might have taken us longer than we wanted it to only we did make it for a visit last weekend.
Our parents came to visit from Sun Valley, Idaho so we decided since they were escaping from the snow and winter days we needed to take them to Andis Winery to get a dose of springtime. The winery is easy to get to and when we arrived we were the only visitors there so the expansive parking lot was easy to maneauver and we found our way to the tasting room right away. The architecture of the building is modern and lends itself to the indoor outdoor lifestyle we sometimes take for granted here in California. The tasting room is so airy and open that expansive views of the vineyards surround you on all sides.
Since we brought our two tots we didn’t do focused wine tasting for long. We tasted the top white and red and then took some glasses out on the bocce court for a game and some old-fashioned wine country entertainment. There are covered chairs outside the tasting room and the bocce court is open for anyone to use during winery hours. There is also picnic tables, large grassy areas to run and other games to try.
The focus of the winery is to seek out the best vineyards in the Sierra Foothills to craft wines with balance, character, complexity and varietal correctness. The winemakers at Andis use both traditional and innovative winemaking approaches to produce wines that display the characterisitics of the region while maintaining a uniqueness that is all their own. Our favorite part of the tasting experience was the wine available on tap. Visitors can purchase a refillable bottle that can be filled on each visit from the wine on tap that day. Wine rotates throughout the year and prices vary.
Andis Winery is located at 11000 Shenandoah Rd in Plymouth and the tasting room is open 7 days a week from 11:00am – 4:30pm. Wine tasting costs $5/person and is refundable with each bottle purchase.
Groups of 10 or more people: $10/person, non-refundable. Club Andis members: free wine tasting for up to 4 adults. More information at (209) 245-6177
The Festival has become a destination throughout Northern California and the pride of Galt. The event includes food booths, a car show and carnival. www.galtchamber.com
A Day on the Farm
Soil Born Farm, Rancho Cordova, CA
Purchase fresh from the field, organically grown vegetables & fruit at the event and participate in cooking classes and workshops, farm tours and more. www.soilborn.org
Sacramento County Fair
The Sacramento County Fair is a family-friendly event with all the amenities of a traditional communal expo along with modern day entertainment. A livestock barn with auctions, freestyle motocross demo, carnival rides, demolition derby, buzzworthy local bands and bull riding events take place over the course of five days. http://www.sacfair.com/
Bay Area and Beyond
Oakdale Chocolate Festival
May 21-22, 2016
IChocolate samples and items for purchase on Chocolate Avenue. 200+ Quality and variety vendors in Arts & Crafts, Chocolate Avenue a variety of food and Specialty Merchandise & Services. Amusement Park, Classic Car Show, and Western Show. Entertainment on: Chocolate Challenge Stage, Cowboy Cook’n Stage, and Main Stage. https://www.oakdalechamber.com/
One of my favorite easy dinners this time of year is Strawberry Spinach Salad. It’s the perfect recipe to try with tots even after a long day of school when no one is up for much cooking. Like me. With minimal prep work it’s a fun group activity that gets dinner made and occupies younger sous chefs for a while.
The main rule of this salad is there are no rules. Add what you like and leave out what you don’t. To change it up we like to add grilled chicken breast, homemade croutons and onion slices.
Strawberry and Spinach Salad
Easy dinner for tots to prepare with parents. Use local in season spinach and strawberries for the sweetest salad imaginable.
We usually drive long distances to find in-season local fruit and vegetables that we can pick ourselves. This time of year, we don’t have to go far to get our fix. We live in the foothills outside of Sacramento, CA and we have some aweome local you-pick farms less than five miles from our house.
Strawberry season usually starts sometime in late March or early April and continues through November depending on the weather that year. We watch our local you-pick organic strawberry farm closely and since we drive by almost every day this is easy to do. El Dorado Hills Natural Farms is located just off Hwy 50 in El Dorado Hills off the Bass Lake Rd. exit. For anyone traveling to South Lake Tahoe this farm is a really easy stop off since the farm is actually visible from the highway.
El Dorado Hills Natural Farms is the only chicken, fruit and vegetable farm on the western slope of El Dorado County and they offer seasonal berries and some other selections along with farm eggs. The farm was a large dairy farm in the early-to-mid 1900’s and now has returned to its agricultural beginnings. The local farmer owners follow all-natural pest and weed control methods to provide pesticide-free products.
Strawberry picking is open weekends in the early season and opens more days as the season goes on. The El Dorado Hills Natural Farms Facebook page is the best resource to see when the farm is open and what’s available. The farm hosts community events complete with music and food throughout the year along with their public picking hours. There is also a farmstand during peak season for those customers that don’t want to pick.
Since El Dorado Hills is rattlesnake territory we make sure to wear our thickest rainboots or outdoor boots and keep a vigilant watch on our tots while they are picking. Some picnic tables are available for snacking or a quick lunch. Parking is in a dirt lot right in front of the farm entrance. The farm is cash only so hit the ATM before you go.
El Dorado Hills Natural Farms is located at 1941 Old Bass Lake Rd., El Dorado Hills, CA and hours vary by season.