Wheeling to Tucson ~ Saturday October the 8th
Weed CA to Forks of Salmon and the Godfrey Ranch - Siskiyou County California
Now we move on to the next destination on our westward trek - the Godfrey Ranch high in the mountains of Siskiyou County above the village of Forks of Salmon. This will be our fourth visit to this off the grid Eden and I will be referring back to previous visits throughout this post.
It was back in the 1970s when I first met the McCulloughs of Pittsburgh PA. The McCulloughs consisted of Fred (dad) Carol (mom) Chris (eldest son) and Jason (youngest son). Fred and Carol were both involved in nature study and outdoor recreation and so introduced their two sons to all the fun a kid can have tromping through the woods, taking long hikes, backpacking in the Dolly Sods Wilderness and all the while bird watching and taking in all the wonders and joys unspoiled nature has to offer.
Considering this it was no wonder Fred and Carol packed the kids off to Wheeling WV and Oglebay Institute's Junior Nature Camp every summer for two weeks of nature study, communal meals, camp fires, sing alongs and all the other goodies summer camp provides.
It just so happened I was a camp counselor around the time the McCulloughs were involved in Oglebay's camping program and that is where I met them.
Since Chris was closer to my age than his parents or his brother Jason we quickly struck up a friendship which lasted through Junior Nature Camp, Mountain Nature Camp and Backpacking Camp. Chris and I kept in touch outside of camp as well. We camped out up on Dolly Sods and I visited him in Pittsburgh.
A teenage Chris McCullough
at a Junior Nature Camp Reunion
Hey! It was the 70s! Big hair. Big coat. Big glasses. BIG was IN!
Chris eventually moved on as did I and inevitably we lost touch. But I now had a solid friendship with his parents who I would see at Brooks Bird Club events like the annual BBC Foray. At those times I would occasionally ask about Chris - where he was and what he was doing. At some point in time Fred and Carol told me he was at Antioch College studying Environmental Science. Then it was to UC Davis. Then, before I knew it he was in northern California home steading a piece of property with his partner Meui. Then Fred and Carol reported they now had a baby girl. Then another one! And so it goes...
Thinking about all this got me curious for the specifics so I emailed Chris for the details, much of which he had related in the past. But this poor old alcohol soaked brain of mine only has so much room info so I needed a refresher.
I went to Antioch for my Bachelor's in Environmental Science and I attended UC Davis for my Masters in Horticulture with a viticulture specialization.
I moved to the Godfrey Ranch and lived with Geba/Petey and their family in 1994. After many adventures in Canada and UC Davis I came back to live with them in 1998. The place "next door" was up for sale in 1999 and I was able to borrow and beg family and friends for the down payment. Meui was part of that process. For many years afterwards Meui would spend months in Canada running her spice business and the remaining months here on the Godfrey Ranch.
We officially moved the business to the Godfrey Ranch in 2008. We have approximately four acres under cultivation. We have 37.5 acres total. We have two water sources; Negro Creek which flows through the Godfrey Ranch and a mountain spring that flows out of the mountain at the top of our property.
The marijuana crop is grown with the original Proposition 215 guidelines. I believe this proposition was passed in CA in 1995. With a doctor's recommendation/prescription for marijuana you are allowed to grow six plants. We are also allowed to sell our product to cannabis clubs that then re-sell it to patients who cannot grow their own. By California standards we are very, very small producers. I wouldn't want your readers to get the impression that we are "big-time" marijuana growers. Everything we do here is 'mom&pop' style.
Source: Chris McCullough
Then in 2011 while in the process of planning another visit to San Francisco I got in touch with Chris and Meui and told them of my plans. I asked about visiting them when I got to the west coast. I got the go ahead and that was my first of now 4 visits (2 of them with Betsy) to what is called the Godfrey Ranch up on a mountain side above the beautiful Salmon River. It is on this sun drenched and well watered property Chris, Meui and daughters Shekina and Nadine live and work in an off the grid paradise. And what might that work be? The Pepper Forrest Spice farm and Herb Farm!
Pepper Forrest Spice Company
Naturally Grown Spices, Herbs, Spice Blends and Sauce ingredients since 1992. All our products are grown and processed by or for us.
Welcome to our family farm. Our family, which includes Meui (pronounced me-you-we) and Chris (pronounced bird-man) along with our two young daughters Shekina and Nadine, lives in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California. Our entire farm is off the grid, which means we generate our own electricity with a water wheel and solar power. Our passion for growing and processing our own food has been a life long adventure. Our spices, spice blends and herbs reflect our desire to bring good flavor and good health to ALL FOODS AND ALL PEOPLE. The products we offer on this site are the result of twenty years of experimenting with spices and spice blends.
The Pepper Forrest Spice Company began in British Columbia, Canada in 1992 and was certified organic for fifteen years until our move to California. We still strongly maintain those practices in our growing, processing and storing of the spices. All our ingredients are grown by or for us using organic methods and we process, blend and package everything ourselves on our farm. We make the spices in small batches to ensure freshness. All our ingredients are either dehydrated using passive solar heat or a low burning wood stove in our custom built drying room.
Thank you for visiting our farm through our website. We encourage your thoughts and ideas so please write to us for we thoroughly enjoy communication with our customers. Food is our medicine and we wish you healthy, enjoyable meals always!
The Pepper Forrest Spice Company
HC4 Godfrey Ranch Rd. Forks of Salmon, CA 96031
Copyright The Pepper Forrest Spice Co. All rights reserved.
Source: The Pepper Forrest Spice Co
Here are some of the goodies you can get from The Pepper Forrest Spice Co
Smoky mountain sprinkle
Italian herbs blend
Ginger garlic nori blend
Spicy garlic blend
Take the edge off tea
Click here for more info
The route shown above does no justice to the gorgeous drive through the low country around the Shasta Valley, the tiny town of Gazelle and the Willow Creek Valley via the Gazelle Callahan Road. Then the ups and downs begin as we start to climb Gazelle Mountain. Then we get to Callahan, population 251, which seems a major metro area compared to Gazelle, population 70.
In Callahan we dog leg left onto the Callahan-Cecilleville Road. Now we are paralleling the East Fork South/Fork Salmon River.
At Cecilville we hit the South Fork of the Salmon River and the views are amazing! The serpentine and cliff hugging road gives us many vistas into the gorge below.
We then gradually descend into the town of Forks of Salmon. Here we are at river level and not far from where in 2014 Betsy and I enjoyed a cooling skinny dip in the Salmon River. But that is another story.
Just to the southeast of the town of Forks of Salmon we make a right on to gravel surfaced Godfrey Ranch Road. We are now at about 1250' elevation. We immediately start to climb. And climb and climb and climb... Then we get to the "steep part" which is what the locals call the really steep part of this already really steep road. We climb some more. Then, finally the road levels out somewhat. Now, 3 miles and 1990' of elevation gain later we have arrived in Paradise.
A Google eye view of the Pepper Forrest Spice farm at the Godfrey Ranch.
Do you see that vehicle on the far right? That is our van!
As luck would have it this satellite image was captured during our visit in September of 2014.
As we wind our way down the lane, our Home, Sweet, Home for then next few days comes into view.
By the time we arrived at the Godfrey Ranch for this 2016 visit, the growing season was just about over. But there was still some late harvesting to be done so Betsy and I pitched in.
We also pitched in with the prep for the drying process. Or at least Betsy did. I sat in a lawn chair in the sun, drank beer and made sure everyone else kept busy. BTW - that is Chris in the center and Meui far right. Far left is Betsy and sitting next to her is neighbor Dara. Dara had brought her daughter up the mountain to play with Shekina and Nadine. Dara is the head teacher at the Forks of Salmon Elementary School.
The Forks of Salmon Elementary School resides at 15616 Salmon River Road Forks of Salmon, CA 96031 in a remote and isolated off the “grid” location of Northern California on the beautiful Salmon River. Once a booming gold and timber area, it is now a one teacher school serving a few families who have found a way to be economically sustainable and are committed to the unique offering of mountain living.
The Forks of Salmon Elementary School currently has 9 students enrolled in K-8. Last year there were 17 students which was higher than usual. The school averages about 12 students a year.
Chris is the Board of Education President for the Forks of Salmon Elementary School District.
This time of the year there are the fruits of Chris and Meui's labor everywhere you look. I took this snap in the kitchen.
Check out the mason jars. They contained the main ingredients for one of the best tasting meals Betsy and I ever had. That ingredient is Tikka Masala sauce which was made with all "you can't get any fresher" ingredients right off the farm. And what a difference that freshness makes!
Meui had Betsy sample the fragrance from both last year's and this year's dry ingredients and Betsy found the difference quite amazing. Now I know when I make curry with ingredients that are years old they have not much flavor or punch.
Meui's Tikka Masala
6 tsp coriander
6 tsp cumin
6 tsp garlic powder
6 tsp paprika
4 tsp garam masala
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp chili powder (can use additional paprika instead)
4 tsp (at least) turmeric
3 TBS salt
These spices are for 1 and 1/2 gallons of tomato puree.
Saute 3-5 onions and 20 cloves garlic.
Add to tomato puree.
Heat and simmer for a short time. Then let sit for several hours.
You can use commercial Garam Masala in the above recipe or make your own (see recipe below).
1 TBS cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
Toast these spices and combine with 1/2 tsp nutmeg.
While on the mountain Betsy and I stayed in the guest house. It is a combo Airstream trailer and frame construction. It is very cozy and has all the comforts of home: Wood stove, gas stove top, hot water, big windows that open up to enjoy the night time sounds (mostly silence) and lovely breezes. The guest house is partly surrounded by Madrone trees. The picture above is of the newly shed leaves which the coming of Fall has triggered.
Here we see the AfroMan at the recently built "Chateau Afreaux" for wine storage. A much needed addition for their production and they are mighty proud of it.
And so end our fourth visit to the Godfrey Ranch. As always, we look forward to the next one. But, before we go, you might want to take a peek at the photos from our 2014 visit. You can view them here.
Now we will be leaving the warm and dry mountains of Siskiyou County and heading still further west to the Coastal Redwood belt of Humboldt County.
See you then,
Mike and Betsy