An apple orchard planted in the 1880s and pruned by black bears, a small olive grove, a pinot noir vineyard just large enough to produce two barrels of wine, a kitchen garden inspired by French potagers — I have been fortunate enough to fold country pursuits like these into my daily routines for the past 25 years. This is essential not only because our family household is organized around cooking and provisioning and fresh food. It also grounds me in the real life experience that I have spent many years writing about.
  
Sometime in 2006 I was sent to Malaga, Spain to participate in a seminar on horticulture and give a lecture about my book, Farming with the Wild. I was treated like a VIP and taken on a tour of local food businesses that had been supported by various funding mechanisms: the European Union, the government of Spain, the Province of Andalusia and the city of Malaga. We visited a cheese factory, an olive curing business and a brand new olive oil facility. At the mill there were all kinds of characters surrounded by various assorted containers waiting for their olives to be pressed into oil. Some of the ancient olive trees in Andalusia are literally a thousand years old. I asked one old man, wool cap brim pulled over his eyes, what olive variety was the best for oil. “Mine!” he answered. 
  
This is the way I think about all the ingredients that I grow and collect locally and process by hand usually with the help from my friend, Eduardo, who came to the US almost 40 years ago from Michoacán and has worked with my family since the mid-1990s. I also have a “comrade in farming,” the California food policy activist Michael Dimock, who delights in all things slow food. Our goal is to produce the highest quality wine and oil and whatever else we can achieve with the lightest possible touch.

“Bottling sunlight” by capturing the sugars and nutrients of solar energy and the carbon and nitrogen and hydrogen cycles that the seasons provide requires skill and sweat and patience and love — and a lot of time to experiment and succeed and fail. I can’t get too worried if someone else’s red wine or olive oil or apple cider or fresh eggs or dinosaur kale or orange marmalade might taste slightly better than mine at any given moment. The joy is in the doing. For me, it’s about making the most of my very short time here on this planet.