Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

cactus fries and avocado dip, yumm!

fried cactus recipe

cactus fries recipe

 

Munchin with Munchkin has this ‘so very tasty looking’ fried cactus recipe.
Yep, I’m gonna try this one!

what grade of cactus for juicing?

We had someone recently write to us asking this questions:

“I was just in Mexico and was drinking green juice made with cactus.  Which grade of cactus would you recommend for blending into juice?”

I answered back:

 

 I’d recommend our Grade C in the winter time…. the Grade D in winter is usually pretty frost bitten….. in the summertime the Grade D is usually going to be much better than in winter (grades depend a bit on the weather…. summertime makes them much better, but there’s no such thing as B and A in winter time….

Grade D is the worst ones we have… some folks will ‘settle’ for those rather than pay more for C…. today was about half and half between C and D.. and that’s kind of usual.

A and B are the tender prime flat gourmet fancy ones meant to be served whole and pretty as anything… but only worth it for your boss or the President of Mexico when he visits :-)     The weather and season has to be perfect for them for a couple of months, just one cold snap will cause enough deformities to reduce their prime qualities. So they are only available from April to October.

 

I recommend Grade C in general for most folks…

and D can look pretty bad in the winter time… in the summer time…. well, even the worst ones look OK…. they’re just bent or twisted, or might have some insect bites (ants and cucumber beetles).

 

I appreciate your question :-)

 

Anyone that has any questions about our cactus, please do post them here, or from our website at www.rivenrock.com info @ at rivenrock.com

We made a video showing us juicing cactus…. here it is!

Rivenrock… three year old plants

Rivenrock Terraces, 3 year-old plants

Rivenrock Terraces, 3 year-old plants

I just took this photo of the three-year-old plants….
this is how they look when they are not getting eaten by deer….
the quality is supreme right now… world-class
We like to share our philosophy on cultivation, as well as our methods… know your farmer, know your food.

The grasses are the natives and acclimated plants, we let them grow in the wintertime after they sprout in fall…. through the winter they grow tall and heavy with seeds which we let mature in spring before we cut them to let them fall onto the ground as a mulch. This mulch helps conserve moisture and adds humus and carbon to the soil.
The terraces are designed to capture all rainfall or irrigation water….. they channel into one another so that there are no spots where the water can travel straight downhill causing erosion. We also encourage the grasses to grow because they hold the soil together…. one thing we don’t want is soil erosion… doubly so on this steep slope which must be managed very delicately.

The sprinklers are called micro-sprinklers… they don’t put out  a lot of water all at once….. but they are easy to install here and there where we need them for the plants. So there is very little water waste. The cactus don’t have deep roots… their roots are fairly shallow, so they like a nice watering that will go 6″ or so into the soil…. we let the first couple of inches get a bit dry before we water again. In hot weather we might water for 20 minutes at a time, every four or five days… in cooler weather, once  a week is good…. in the winter wet often go months without irrigating as the plants slow growth greatly and need very little water.

 

Thank You to our customers!

Someone lives in a mountain gorge,
cloud robe and sunset tassels,
holding sweet plants that he would share
~Han Shan

Most folks like to do business face-to-face… but we’re so far back in the hills that people drive their cars off the cliffs trying to get here… an once some folks from Nebraska had to drop the ‘old folks’ off on the side of the road…. the steep ascents and drop-offs scared them so…. we don’t do any business at the farm…. we don’t sell at Farmer’s Markets because we have such a tiny niche product that we’d get hardly any sales and just spend all our time explaining… and gee.. I get wore out talking to folks… I think I’m a natural Hermit

But the advances in technology makes this Brave New World more accessible for a backwoodsman… without leaving the farm I can travel the world… and we get orders for our cactus from all across the USA.

Social Media plays a part also… we have the blog, Twitter, FaceBook and an e-mail newsletter with some 1,500 subscribers….
with these communication tools we can keep our customers informed as to the condition of the cactus… we can warn when quality will go down due to weather, so folks can order quickly and get it before it gets beat up by  a storm…. I find our clients very responsive to these methods…. it is like folks understand the vagaries of dealing with weather and unforeseen circumstances…. when I posted of the deer losses, of how we were unable to fill order quickly, orders went down. Now that I’m crowing about the great quality we’re getting from the fresh regrowth, we’re getting a good number of orders of the higher grades (which are at their premium right now)…. this morning I spent an hour or so making up a nice packet of shippers to go with the cactus we’ll pick and ship after the dew dries.

Communication is one of the key concepts in business…. I must give our customers the cactus they need… and also must convey to them when there will be disruptions in supply… I also like the fact that I think most folks feel they have a ‘fel’ for us… we’re not just some invisible people filling orders in a warehouse…. we’re a couple who select the cuttings for the cactus from among our own plantings… we cure the cuttings for the weeks it takes them to prepare for the planting… then we prepare the soil using ancient methods of terracing or stubble planting.. all organic.. regenerative… designed to be sustainable for thousands of years….. designed to do the least amount of harm to the wildlife…. even when we lost many thousands of dollars in cactus and had almost NOTHING to sell, we would not kill the deer to save money…. we spent thousands to build a tall fence with electric current to ensure the safety of our cactus and our customers…. our customers know us a bit… and we try to stay aware of their needs, our needs, and the needs of the wildlife that lives all around us.

On a good farm, wildlife may lose some acreage… but not their lives.
Thank You to all our customers….
You enable us to live this wonderful life in this beautiful wilderness :-)

Back to filling orders again

:-)

 We’ve got the best customers! People know we’ve been beset by deer, and we’ve been slow filling orders until recently due to the cactus being browsed down to stumps.

   But the news that we’re getting good re-growth has spread, and this morning found a large number of orders made in the last few days.

   We are especially happy with the orders for Grade A and Grade B…. that is what is growing most nicely at this early stage. It’s that tender new growth that is most highly prized…. young, tender, thin and with a delightful zesty snap and crunch.

   Yep…. if you want the highest grades of cactus (and I must say unabashedly, we grow among the world’s BEST edible cactus in the world!) come on over and order up some Grade A and Grade B now…. once the winter comes those grades will have to be removed because the cold, wind and storms will destroy the delightful qualities they have only during the nicest weather and freshest new growth.

 John and Vickie Dicus

Commercial cactus harvest begins today

We start our commercial cactus harvests today… from now until November we’ll be shipping cactus weekly to the Bay Area distributor that sends it on to places such as health-centered restaurants and foods stores.

In the next few weeks we’ll be starting the shipments to a distributor in the Great Lakes area (5 states), and another on the Eastern Seaboard that provides to restaurants and health-food stores from Miami to NYC.

But we’re still your regular corner ‘Mom-and-Pop’ grower… just the two of us doing the planning, planting and picking… we’re tiny, our shipments are probably the smallest these distributors deal with… but they see a value in our underutilized beloved cactus. And we’re thankful for their business, and the many people who buy from them that permits us to continue growing and expanding.

Life is something to go through…. I am thankful for the opportunities and circumstances I have been offered… I wish well for everyone else also, you have to go through life…. might as well open your eyes and make the best of it you can.

weeding time 2012

Cactus plot prior-to being weed-wacked by hand-held machine

Cactus plot prior-to being weed-wacked by hand-held machine

 

This is part of our hillside cactus plantings. These particular plants are about two years old and will start to yield well this year.

Over the winter we let the native and introduced grasses grow with the winter rains. The common nature of these grasses is to grow in the mild winter temperatures, with the occasional large storm and rains coming through nourishing them through the winter. In the springtime they put out their seeds and go dry, turning to straw/hay. We let them grow in the winter, and in the spring when the cactus starts to stir from the warmer days, and the grasses have set seeds, we cut them down. This turns the bare stalks and grass leaves into a straw mulch on our soil. This mulch will rot down into the soil through the years, enriching the soil by adding humus to it. This humus is eaten by the microbial populations which exude acids that etch the soil mineral particles, releasing the native fertility of the soil. Basically, we let the ‘weeds’ grow in the winter time to be a ‘green manure’ for us, but we let it seed and go dry , this ensures plenty of good seeds the next year, to keep our grass growth strong, and the dry leaves shatter easily when the machine cuts them…. it saves on plastic trimmer string, fuel, wear and tear on me and the machine. I don’t need to reseed the grasses, I don’t need to water them, they are native and grow well in this alternating cycle of wet-cool winters and warm-dry summers that their seeds must stay alive through in the straw mulch.

You can see in the photo above that the grasses fairly cover the cactus….. most commercial plantings of anything would not let ‘weeds’ grow unabated for five months of the year…. but for us these grasses have more value than as mulch… in the winter we often get a lot of rain, and cactus can rot if it gets too much water in the winter when the days are cool…. the grasses have invasive roots that open the soil in their wanderings… they don’t ‘steal’ water form the cactus,  they ‘remove’ excess water from around the cactus, and they keep the soil open and loose so it will drain well.

The grasses buffer the soil, like a carpet, so when I walk through in the winter checking the plants, I don’t pack muddy soil together…. and I don’t track mud all over either.

The grasses cover the soil reducing erosion, compaction, and freezing of the soil. An uncovered soil is much more likely to free on clear open night when the cold of space projects straight down. The grass hovering over and around the cactus also shields the cactus from this frost.

The photo below shows the cactus patch after being weed-wacked with a  hand-held string-trimmer machine. There will be some hand clearing done afterwards…. I don’t like to pull the grasses on this slope, I want the roots to stay in the ground, holding everything in place well. So cutting by machine is the best option.

 

After Weed string-trimming

After weed String-Trimming by machine

 

The cactus terraces after being hand weeded

springtime is coming….

 The nights are still in the mid thirties (just above 0 C)… but the daytimes are often in the 70′s and the low 80′s… springtime is coming onto us well and good. The wild birds are mating, we should be seeing them gathering nest-building materials soon.

 The cactus leaves are flushing out on the plants. We’ll start weeding between the plants soon…. but first we let the grasses set their seeds. We’ll be expanding our sales list soon as we do every spring when the entire plethora of cactus grades are available on the plants.

   We raise our prices every spring to account for shipping-price increases that usually take effect in winter. For folks who like regular monthly shipments, this is a good time to sign up for a regular subscription…. you can sign up for a two year limit on the pricing, so for two years you get the cactus monthly without the yearly price increase, and you can cancel the subscription anytime. http://www.rivenrock.com/ediblecactus.htm

   Being decent, honest and transparent in our thoughts, actions and philosophy to life, relationships and business is our main goal….. We’re artists…. we think different.

“ All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.” ~Mark Twain~

A letter of thanks

   We’ve provided cactus leaves to the USDA so they could raise up special cactus-eating insects for research… they needed to assure there were no insecticides in the leaves…. we’ve sold cactus to a pharmaceutical company for research. We sell cactus regularly to an animal food processor, and a supplement manufacturer. We have cactus that goes to the finest restaurants in the Bay Area and are selling this summer to an organic foods distributor in the Great Lakes area, and another that sells from Miami to Maine.
   Today we got a call from a juice maker who wants to try our cactus for a new product… and they asked for a quote on cactus by the ton for their processes.
   I’d like to thank all of the people who have made a big difference in my life… from my parents, siblings and wife, to my drill sergeants, work associates and friends…. and the hundreds of people who buy from us and send us great messages giving us the hope to keep planting and buying irrigation lines to expand our plantings.
    Agriculture is all about optimism… if you expect things will not work out you’ll not bother to plant or maintain plantings…. I have high hopes for the future, and I see good things ahead for our cactus.

Cactus Growth Report

Ring Bell, if no answer pick weeds

 

LOL…. cute. But many of us let the weeds grow. Yep, we’ve got five-foot tall grass growing around the cactus right now. It’s setting seed and after it has all seeded I’lll mow it leaving the cactus to get full sun and space for me to wander the rows and pick. The mowed grasses will form a mulch on the ground shading it from the sun, and eventually rotting into the soil, enriching it. Our full harvest should begin in mid May. the cactus are putting out small baby leaves and should grow fine and be fully formed and ready for eating in a month to six weeks. BUT…. one big cold snap and frost could set us back by two months…. it’d destroy the young leaves, and we’d have to wait for new ones to grow out…… …fingers crossed…. but we’re nearing the end of our frost season. We have gotten frost in early April occasionally, and rarely in late April (like happened last year and killed all our tomatoes which I’d planted early due to primo weather). This year we’ve had the family tomato plants set out for six weeks. They are growing, albeit slowly… and I covered them with a blanket at night a few times when the weather was predicted to be cold. We get about ten to 20 nights below 32F/0C yearly, usually it only gets to 28 or 30F. This winter we had an unusual cold snap in December when we got some 18 nights below 32… and occasional scattered freezes now and then since… about the regular amount, other than that strange December. We’re hoping to have full harvest beginning before ‘Cinco de Mayo’, but it has ALWAYS really started in earnest a week afterward. So, I’m not going ‘out-on-a-limb’ here by predicting we’ll have full harvest beginning by May 15.