Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

A cow can change things

A cow can change things:

A program like this can make a positive impact on a rural family.
Odd how we know this is true for other people, but our own government does not allow us to do this in the USA. Yes, it is true that a person cannnot (in general) really raise a cow and sell the milk legally…. to sell milk requires a great deal of governmental approval and oversight for ‘the health of the people’….. We talk of the unwillingness of Americans to work, and we’ll talk of how our own grandparents raised pigs, cows, orchards, vineyards, sold eggs and raw milk and meat from a shed where they butchered animals. But we don’t speak of how in the ‘modern agribusiness climate’ we must have a separate license and permit and training and sanitary facilities to be allowed to any of those processes. And with the ‘economy of scale’ that results from legislation, people are forced to curtail any activity that does not adequately pay for the cost of expenditures required by law. Therefor we end up with pig factories with 50,000 pigs, not  a weed or garden in sight, and the family buying their porkchops from the butcher.


FAQ on the California Homemade Food Act

Frequently Asked Questions about the California Homemade Food Act

Society has changed a lot in the last century. One hundred years ago the majority of people still lived on farms… farms were very diverse with small animals such as pigs and chickens and fruits/vegetables. The excess and waste produce would be given to the animals, the refuse from the animals served to fertilize the fields. The grower might do tasks such as hiring himself out to neighbors for projects and custom-work on his off-season….. his wife might make jellies, bake pies and artisan breads that he’d swing by the local diner on the way to town….

People often lament the sad state of our society, the numbers of people wanting largess from the government… but we forget it is our own society and government that encourages such complete safety standards and licensing for any activity that it makes a small operation unsustainable. If the wife must have a ‘commercial kitchen’ to bake her pies and breads, the cost may be so large that baking those breads and pies is no longer economically feasible. If the farmer must have a separate contractor’s permit for each activity he engages in off-season, this can reduce the profits enough to make that activity unfeasible.

Part of the ‘commercial kitchen’ issue is being addressed in a California Bill that goes into effect in January. The California Homemade Food Act will allow small producers of artisanal products to manufacture those products in their home kitchens.

As a person who’s been shut down by the Health Department when I was ‘busted’ repacking organic dates from large crates into small packages in my kitchen (on that tragic day in ‘95), I support this bill for the help it can be in allowing a small business to even get started.

Most people buying ‘artisanal’ products probably realize they are dealing with a tiny ‘Mom and Pop’ business that is cooking in a home kitchen that may have cats and kids in the house…. There is unlikely to be a drain in the center of the floor and linoleum going a foot up the sides as required by law… the counter tops will not be stainless, and there will be papers with drawings (and dust) on the refrigerator. The walls will not have graphics detailing labor laws and informing the baker of her rights if the ‘boss’ decides to ‘sexually harass’ her.  Yes, a small home kitchen is NOT going to pass a health/implement inspection. Yet, there are people who would like to buy delicious homemade breads or other items from some small producer… and as long as they are aware of the risks of buying and eating food, it seems to me that they should be allowed to do so.

We’ve become a society that is a bit over-regulated…. This of course is all for our own ‘health’… but no more can a person legally re-roof their neighbor’s house, build a fence for them… work on their car, let their kids sell lemonade on the street corner, or sell firewood from the back lot without a separate permit, fee and forms for each activity.

To me there is no wonder that people would rather have the government ‘give’ to them since this same government has a tendency to tell you all the things you CANNOT do, while at the same time giving the impression it is more than wanting to give monies to anyone who needs them.

Societies grow and change as time passes. We can look back at times gone-by, and lament the passing of some ways, and welcome the changes in other aspects.  But it seems to me that we do not need to lose everything good to gain other things good…. We can pick and choose, and make rational decisions about our lives and our societies… this is why I am such a great fan of California-democracy while also bemoaning our ‘representational’ style. Everything is after all, merely an adjusting of expectations based on the effort expended…. And it is ‘the people’ who choose. We have the final say, but if we elect those who will close the doors to opportunity while cracking open more of the public coffers, it is only logical we will spend ourselves into slavery as a society in the same way a family will spend themselves into servitude through debt.

QR Codes and the Consumer

Study: Nearly 80 percent of college students can’t figure out QR codes

QR codes (Quick Response) is the strange black box with squiggly marks in it on some labels. This is a technology that allows users of ‘smart phones’ to scan the code which will bring them to a website…. this code is often used by food producers like us, because we want people to find our unusual and perhaps unfamiliar food in a market, and be able to find our website quickly so they can see preparation and recipe information.

Edible Cactus QR Code

Edible Cactus QR Code

   Our labels are part of a marketing campaign designed and implemented by ‘Top 10 Produce LLC’

  The QR code will take people to our website where they can pick from cactus recipes and preparation/nutritional information.

   Even though we have this QR code, I personally do not have a smart phone as we have no cellular reception at our home, and I am only out of the canyon for a few hours each week…. so even though I love technology, I can’t use the technology of cell-phones well enough to pay for a smart-phone and the added costs of data service :-(

Food-First Mention

Food-First is a web page on food safety issues (They are officially the Institute for Food and Development Policy), here they discuss the marketing group we are a member of… and way cool is the fact that they used our label to show the scan codes the group is using!
They also discuss the new laws that are set to help find and track foods from ‘point of origin’ to help with food safety.
The marketing group is called Top10 Produce. And they are a fine group that has great ideas to help the small grower and the consumer both.


In the olden days one knew all the people around oneself…. people generally lived on farms and in small villages… even in cities people’s scope of contact was fairly minimal by our standards. People would walk to the local grocery, butcher, milk and meat shop… any of those that gave people a hard time, or that behaved in an ‘untoward’ fashion to their customers would feel the wrath of ‘the people’ who would reduce patronage at the shops they felt were abusing them. This is a common type of ‘social policing’ that people have done from olden times.

But now the world has grown larger…. many people travel far for work and the goods they buy are often produced halfway across the world, in lands and by peoples that much of the world was unaware of just a few hundred years ago. These goods are often sold in massive shops and through international corporations of which most people cannot look the business leader in the eye, hear his/her voice and gauge their intentions.

If someone does me wrong in business, it is logical that I’d not want to do business with them again…. but forgiveness should ALWAYS be first and foremost in human interactions. One does not know why a business acts in a certain way, perhaps it is a local aberration, and if the corporate board knew of the issues they might rectify the situation and smooth relations. But how does the small consumer ‘make’ a large business know they are doing wrong? In the old days you’d tell the owner of the business.. who doubtless would be spending most of each day at the business, and having just a few unsatisfied customers would make a difference to their bottom line…. nowadays the leader of the corporation might be anywhere in the world…. and an unsatisfied customer will effect no register in the overall scope of sales.

This is where the gauging of human interactions needs to be ramped up to international and societal standards…. if a business is acting improperly by ‘abusing’ consumers, then we need to act as a market force, a block of consumers who will not only with-hold monies from the unscrupulous or ‘accidentally-improper’ business….. but even more, we can ‘reward’ well-intentioned businesses by funneling our monies to those who change their business practices to help their consumers. For instance, if a business is doing something we would like changed, we can inform them that we’ll spread the word of their changes or potential changes to the masses, so that they realize that acting properly has positive changes…. it’s a ‘carrot and stick’ approach.

There is a group starting to do this now.. it is called ‘Carrotmob‘….. I think this is a good concept, and a way that the widespread strength of the consumer can be made apparent even in this age of global commerce…..

The founder of Carrotmob has written an open letter to the OWS, to let them know of this concept, which I think is sound and may well have a VERY positive impact on business both large, small, local and international.


SEARS and ‘sneaky charges’
AKA: The Public’s Gonna Get Ya if You’re Unscrupulous!

   Going back to ‘In the Old Days’ thoughts… you knew who you could do business with, and you and the rest of the local public would ‘punish’ any unscrupulous businessmen by not doing business with them. But when big corporations like Penney’s and Sears came about, you only had the manager to complain to….. you as a single or even small group of people not doing business with them will not affect a giant corporation with hundreds of stores across large geographical areas…. but now we have ‘The Internets’ and can ‘point-and-click’ to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any mega corp we don’t like. And now we see that a single article reproduced across the web can have an awesome affect! In this case Sears was automagically tacking-on long-term warranties for electrical appliances when bought on the net. Read the article, it’s awesome for its efficacy in modifying corporate behavior!



What the Pros Use

   An uncle of mine often liked to mention that the work we did was like ‘the Big-boys Downtown’… meaning ‘The Pros’.  A professional has to have the right stuff to do work…. with inadequate equipment you start the game at a disadvantage.. but in the marketplace of work, there is no handicap given to those with inadequate machinery or smarts.

   We do a HUGE amount of weed whacking…. I used to wear-out one weedwacker every year… mainly because the underpowered homeowner models I was buying yearly could not live through the rough use in the wilderness to which I subjected them…. and I was often frustrated by the inability of my machines to cut through the brush and heavy weeds we have…..

   A contractor friend from whom we bought our tractor told me that I should see what the professional weed-trimming crews use for weedwackers.  The pros would buy the best machine for the price… but always a machine that would stand up to the wear-and-tear of several different users and a variety of tasks… at the time the local fellows were mainly using Shindaiwa…. so I went to see what the local Shindaiwa dealer could offer….

   I almost fell over when they showed me a weedwacker priced at nearly $500! OMG, that’s five years worth of weed wackers for me! “But”, they said, “You will only need one, not five”.  With a sinking heart, I paid for the machine…. and went home to have the best and easiest weedwacking I’d ever done.  And now, ten years later, I am still using the same weed wacker…. and when I work, I can get through the brush much better than any other hand-held machine I have ever used.

   Now, wear-and-tear and time will make even a Shindaiwa old(er).  I have to buy a new fuel-pickup every year… I change the spark-plug every few years, and I have to change the fuel tank every five years or so.  This year, on occasion of the ten year anniversary of the trimmer, I bought for it not only a new fuel tank, but a complete new muffler with spark arrestor, and several new rubber parts that have deteriorated a bit over the years.   True, the sum total of these replacement parts is what a small underpowered and cheap weedwacker costs…. but this trimmer is worth it!


Shindaiwa C-35 Weedwacker
Shindaiwa C-35 Weedwacker

This is the engine-end of our Shindaiwa C-35 string trimmer. It has a new muffler and shroud, a new fuel tank and a few new rubber parts.

Totally Great Customer Endorsement

    We are super-lucky having the great customers and associates we do have. We provide a (usually) very high quality product that we’re really proud of.

   Many of our customers send us comments letting us know what they think of our cactus. With only a few exceptions (everyone has those I suppose) we have VERY high remarks from customers as to our quality.

    We have a  customer in Texas (a place where they KNOW cactus) who has been getting our monthly subscription service (that gives a monthly five pound box of cactus) for some time.  Recently he decided that he needed to get his cactus more often than once a month… so he’s signed up for a second monthly subscription set to a half month afterwards…. that way he will get a five pound box of cactus every two weeks.  He had some comments about our cactus that I thought was so positive I needed to use it for a testimonial. I wrote and asked if I may use his words and name… he wrote me back with affirmation. You can read both here….

“I use the cactus for my two leopard tortoises.
I give them 2-3 leaves every day.
I hate when I run out and have to buy some at the grocery store.
The difference in quality is quite drastic.
Keep up the good work!!!!!”

And the affirmation…

“You can use my comments / endorsement however you want.
It’s SOOOO true.
Whenever your package arrives the first thing I do is throw away
whatever cactus I bought at the grocery store to make room for yours.
I almost feel guilty feeding my tortoises some of the substandard local stuff
I’m forced to resort to – since I’m sure they’re “hooked” on yours.”

Mark M.

   Thanks for being a great customer Mark!



For Miners only


Big tires being loaded up for a local mine’s earth-moving machinery.
At Wayne’s Tires in Santa Maria

We’ve used Wayne’s for years now. I used to do a LOT of driving, and was often getting tires.
Wayne’s has always been a place I liked and felt I got a decent deal.

Cactus by the Pallet

Cactus by the Pallet


half a ton of cactus

half a ton of cactus

This is a thousand pound load of freshly harvested edible nopal cactus
all set on the dock waiting for the shrink-wrap.
We ship by Fed Ex, UPS and USPS depending on location,
quantity, and the customer’s wishes.



Old Yeller House

An old article I wrote a couple of years ago…
the yellow house is still sitting vacant
as far as I can tell

April 14, 2007
The Big Yellow House

An Empty House Remembers
~Russell Collier~

The empty house around me ticks and creaks,
A moody end to evening’s gentle rains,
A brooding quiet as the daylight wanes,
The secret language empty houses speak.

What stories might this house preserve entire
In rhythmic code composed of click and groan?
Does House recall a sadness with each moan?
Is laughter stored in every plank and wire?

And how might I, a fleeting visitor,
Acquire an ear for stories trapped in time,
And wrap a tale or two in words and rhyme?
How can I tap the House’s secret lore?

In silence soft the house slips off to sleep.
Alone I sit, in darkness vast and deep.


Old Yeller House in Santa Barbara

Old Yeller House in Santa Barbara


   ‘The Big Yellow House‘ is an easily noticed big yeller house on the side of the highway 101 just south of Santa Barbara. It was a fine dining establishment. I’ve never eaten there, but always seemed to notice it when I passed, I suppose it’d be hard not to notice a big yeller house on the side of the road.
   The Big Yellow House has now closed it’s doors, this huge bastion of family style dining is no more, and many people are saddened to see this old friend locked up. But the foundation and structure are still there, the old beams support the floors without complaint, and the interior plaster and paint sit quietly, waiting for the pitter-patter of tiny feet, the delighted shrieks of laughter and the clatter of silverware and the clanking of celebratory glasses being raised. Yes, this old house knows that someone will come along and fill it with warmth and family, and it will again host monumental parties and celebrations.
   The house is ever patient, it sits, gazing with it’s hollow eyes out over the azure pacific, the Riviera of California as it patiently awaits new people to shelter,   and a new business with caring considerate owners to build up.