Click here for a downloadable version of The Yachats Gazette, Issue 42
Interview with Annie McHale
The Yachats Gazette was very pleased to speak with Annie McHale, who will be offering a four-week class at the Yachats Commons entitled Your “Real Food” Journey.
TYG: What is this program about?
Annie: The program is a four-week cooking class designed to educate people about the food sources they have here in Lincoln County, and also to teach them how to cook with those food sources. Specifically, I teach a three-hour cooking class. But I got a lot of feedback from people saying “We want more, we want more, we want more. We don’t want to just learn how to cook–we want to know why we should be cooking these things, and where they come from, and how they’re treated, how they’re grown.” They wanted a really comprehensive class that painted a whole picture, rather than just bringing something out of your refrigerator onto your stove.
TYG: What’s involved within it?
Annie: Within the class? It’s broken down into four weeks, and the participants attend all four classes. The first week is called “Food Equals Quality of Health,” and that’s the learning piece. That’s where we start talking about GMO’s and organics. We’ll do taste testings of different sweetners that are natural versus non-natural to get an idea what the quality of the product is. We’ll also talk about the health consequences. Do you have a question?
TYG: Actually, it doesn’t closely concern the interview, but it’s something I’ve been wondering for a long time, since you seem to know all kinds of things about natural stuff. Have you ever tried... fuchsia berries?
Annie: [gasps] I have not! Fuchsia berries? Where do you get those?
TYG-Graphic Designer: Off fuchsia bushes!
TYG: Yes, we have a massive fuchsia bush in our back yard, and we harvest a good crop of them every year.
Annie: So you just pick them and eat them in the raw state?
TYG: Yes! But you could also squeeze them to get juice, and that juice is even sweeter. It could definitely be used as a sweetener.
Annie: And the fuchsia flower is gorgeous in color–I wonder what its properties are, and if you could actually use that in cooking–even if you could put those in a salad or something.
TYG-GD: You could even dry [the fuchsia berries] like raisins.
Annie: Ooooh! Awesome, good tip! [laughs] I’ve never tried those before!
TYG-GD: The red-flowered fuchsias–the ones that are not so spectacular–are the ones that make the best berries.
Annie: And are they sweet?
TYG: Yes! Actually, it depends. I once had a white berry, and it’s more sour [the white berries come from the pale pink flowers]. But they still taste good.
Annie: Now how did you venture on this? Did you study about it first, or did you just do it?
TYG-GD: Rod Smith! He said, “Have you ever tried these?” and he picked one off the bush and I looked at him, and he didn’t die... [laughter]
Annie: I’m going to try that, now!
TYG-Editorial Assistant: Allen has talked about starting a fuchsia-berry farm...
TYG: And I was serious about it! You’d have to get a big farm to pick enough for something commercial. The fuchsia berries are about this long [an inch or so, and 1/4” wide].
Annie: Alright! Can we get back to the class now!
TYG: [laughing] Sure!
Annie: Ok, so week one of the program is “Food Equals Quality of Health.” The second week is a personalized meal plan and budget, because what I’ve also realized in talking to people over the years is that they want to eat healthy, and they want to buy organic produce or grow it on their own, but they don’t know how, and they don’t think they can afford it. One of the things we’re going to talk about in the second week is [creating] a meal plan for their family specifically, and a budget that is based specifically on their income, so they know with absolute certainty when they leave that class that they too can afford to eat healthy as well. The third week is “Navigating the Market and Marketing.” A lot of people have expressed an interest in wanting to know what in the markets can they buy, what truly is healthy. There’s so much marketing hype about gluten-free, sugar-free, this and that; truly, it’s not always good food. So we’re going to help them learn how to read labels and learn how to read marketing, so that they know truly whether it’s a good product to purchase.
TYG: Before we go any further: is there really a problem with gluten, or is it just people who are gluten-free because they have food allergies? Is there actually something wrong with gluten?
Annie: I don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with gluten. Gluten is a protein, and it’s necessary to some degree. I think what I’ve found in my research is that gluten today is very different from what it was 50 years ago in the way that it’s grown, and so it interferes with a lot of people’s bodies. Not everybody can tolerate it. I’m one of those people, and I know a lot of people who can’t tolerate gluten. Are you gluten-free?
TYG-GD: More like gluten only.
TYG-EA: I remember when I moved to Seattle 20 years ago, and the [healthy trend] was to serve gluten.
Annie: Really! Looking at recipes on websites, and just doing my own testing in my own kitchen, I’ve made breads that are gluten-free and you really can’t tell the difference. And it will look just the same–it’s beautiful. There are a lot of products out there now that are just so nice to work with that weren’t even available two, three, five years ago. [...] When people really take it to the next level, when people are really interested and passionate about creating good food and a good product, those are the people who find out what the right recipe is. So you can have chocolate chip cookies that taste exactly like what you’re used to. [...] Some people are trying to avoid gluten, but they’re not necessarily trying to look at the total health picture, meaning they’re not looking at all the other ingredients that are added to make up some kind of consistency. [...] What we will convey in this class is that gluten-free doesn’t have to taste awful. It can taste good. [...] That’s another one of the things that we’ll be talking about in this marketing class: there are a lot of products that are claiming they’re gluten-free, when they were never gluten in the first place.
Annie: [laughter] Exactly! Gluten-free water! But they’re printing it on their bottles so people will buy it, thinking it has a health benefit.
TYG-GD: “No GMO’s!”
Annie: Right! [laughter]
TYG: And by the way, is there really anything wrong with GMO’s?
Annie: I think so. What do you think?
TYG: I don’t think so. I do agree that not enough testing has been done. But if there’s a major round of testing, would you agree with that form of GMO?
Annie: No. Not at all.
TYG-GD: What’s the definition of GMO, before we all get off on different tracks?
Annie: “GMO” is a genetically-modified organism.
TYG-GD: How is that different from cross-breeding?
Annie: Very different. GMO starts with synthetic items to create an end product. Cross-breeding, or a hybrid, does not. You’re starting with something that’s natural, and crossing it with something else that’s natural, and creating a third entity. But it’s natural. [...]
TYG: I would consider growing stuff in our yard, but we just don’t have the space. How do you account for that in your cooking class?
Annie: That’s when you turn to planter gardening! You get pots, or do raised beds on the patio. You put pots in your windows so you can grow herbs in the wintertime, and add something green to your diet when everything else is sleeping. Just build a raised bed, or a planter.
TYG: Yes, at the Farm Store they’re offering great rates. I’ve heard that they’re selling a one foot deep by two feet wide by six feet long for under $100.
Annie: Yes. You can’t beat it. I think it’s great that they’re doing that, because they’re giving people some incentive that’s affordable. [...] Week Four! I have to tell you about Week Four. The fourth week is [when] we’re going to prepare and enjoy a gourmet meal. Everybody in the class actually gets to do hands-on cooking of a menu that I select. It’s going to be gluten-free and sugar-free and as organic as possible where we can find organic ingredients, and non-GMO as well. Everybody will engage in the process of cooking, and then they’ll get to sit down and eat it.
TYG-GD: How about vegetarian?
Annie: Vegetarian as well. I can do vegan, too. Depending on who signs up for the class,* [see page 6] we’ll cater it to those persons.
TYG: I’m surprised everything will be gluten-free.
Annie: Oh yeah! Gluten-free is easy to do when you know how to do it.
TYG: But no bread.
Annie: Oh, absolutely! [...]
TYG: How can you create bread without grain?
Annie: Well, you use different flours! For a gluten-free bread, you use rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca flour... they’re all different flours that don’t contain any gluten whatsoever.
TYG: What about the grain itself, the actual crust? That’s grain, right?
Annie: No, the crust is flour too.
TYG-EA: The crust is the outside that gets heated more.
TYG: Huh. I hadn’t understood that. [...] You’re really alleviating my fears about gluten-free, here. [...]
Annie: Well good!
TYG: How much does [the class] cost?
Annie: The cost of the class is $30 per person for all four classes and the meal. A real bargain!
TYG: Where will this be hosted?
Annie: At the Commons, in the kitchen.
TYG-GD: And what days is it going to be?
Annie: On Thursdays, and it starts February 12 and goes through March 5, from 6pm until 8pm. The last class is 6-9pm because of the dinner.
TYG: I think we might want to go to this, Mom!
Annie: [laughter] People have to pre-register and contact me either by phone or e-mail, and I’ll take a waiting list because I can only take eight people per class.
TYG: What gave you the idea to start this program?
Annie: I’ve been offering cooking classes probably for about fifteen years or so, just for family and friends who requested it. But about four years ago I was having some health issues and received a diagnosis that was completely treatable by changing my diet. So I went gluten-, sugar-, dairy-, and caffeine-free for about eight months to clear my digestive tract and system out. During that time, people asked if I was willing to share the recipes I was learning to make. From that came a cooking class and retreat weekend. So people came either for a three-hour class; one person would start it, and then they would bring five friends. I would go to their house and cook for their friends; we’d cook a meal and then eat it together, and then there would be an educational piece to it too. Or, for the retreat weekend, up to four people would come to my home, and we’d do cooking all weekend long, and also talk about the emotional attachments to food, and the psychology behind food addiction. And they just blossomed! People just loved the classes and started telling all their friends about them, and so it just became kind of a business that took care of itself. We still hear from those people. I haven’t done it for about a year because we moved here and settled here on the farm [The Farm at Dancing Star]. We’re moved in, we’re settled here, and now is a good time to offer the classes. I can’t wait, and I’m very excited!
TYG: Are you still working at the Law Offices of Holly Anne Gibbons, LLC?
TYG: What did you do before Holly’s, by the way?
Annie: Organization development and corporate training for Buick Motor Division, Hewlett Packard, Standard Insurance, and a big company in Canada. Essentially what I did is help companies establish solid infrastructures so they could run in the black.
TYG: Anything else? No? Thank you so much for your time!
Annie: You’re welcome–thank you!
*The first class has filled up before the Yachats Gazette even went to press. The Farm at Dancing Star has committed to offering another one in April or May, dependent upon the Commons’ availability. If you wish to add your name to the wait list, please email Annie at
TheFarmAtDancingStar@gmail.com. When the schedule has been confirmed, you will be contacted and given priority to register before the class is advertised openly.
The Farm at Dancing Star: Interview with Charlotte Rafter and David Lavrinets
The Farm at Dancing Star is off North Yachats River Road, and will be in the next Yachats River Farm Tour. The Yachats Gazette was delighted to go on a “sneak preview” tour, conducted by Charlotte Rafter and David Lavrinets, co-owners of the farm.
David: We have ducks in the upper area to eat slugs out of the garden–we have much less slug damage than we used to. We keep chickens in the orchard for eating apple maggots and codling moth larvae. We have about eight or ten standard apple trees, three plum trees, and three pear trees. They’re old. Then we have a bunch of new ones that we just planted within the last three years or so.
TYG: And those are the more spindly ones.
David: They’re smaller trees, yes. This is the old homestead building. This is the first place where people lived on the farm. It was added to, piece-meal. This portion right up here, you can’t get to from inside the house. You have to walk outside to an outside stairway to get to the upper area.
TYG: So that was created separate–I assume that was an apartment for another family.
David: Well, I don’t think so. I think they just found it easier to do it that way than to take some interior space to make stairs. [...] My son-in-law and I are building a tree-house for the grand-kids here with the sequoia and Doug[las] fir.
TYG: Oh! That’s a big one!
David: Yeah, that’s going to be a nice tree-house for the grand-kids. Our water is spring water, and it’s gravity fed so we don’t have any cost, except for cleaning the system periodically. We have a holding tank, and a settling tank, and it’s filtered. [...] Here we have chicken coops and goose coops, and we have a couple of geese. There’s a restaurant in Newport that buys our goose eggs, and uses them to make homemade ice cream, which they feature at their restaurant, called Arr Place.
TYG: I don’t know that one!
David: It’s right behind Green Gables.
TYG: Don’t know that one either!
David: These are blueberry bushes–we have about 14 of them.
TYG: Hey Mom! These are blueberry bushes, just like ours! Why is it purple and blue?
David: It’s a variety... Here are the geese, Allen! [puts straw in the coop for the chickens] That’s going to give them a place that’s not so muddy.
TYG: I assume their wings are clipped?
David: No, I don’t think so...
TYG: Why don’t they fly away, then?
David: This is their home! This meadow, Allen, used to be wide open, but I wanted to have some redwoods in the center here.
TYG: [gasps] Mom! These are redwoods!
David: We have one, two, three, four, five of them.
TYG-GD: We had a redwood on our property in Kalama.
David: This was three feet high when I planted it five, six years ago. [It’s now about seven or eight feet tall.] I had one fall down–I haven’t decided whether to remove it, or turn it into a nurse log. And that’s natural forest right beyond there. So, you asked what kind of tours we’re going to offer? We want to have people learn where their food comes from. We want to have people learn sustainable gardening, and we’ll be able to help with their education, hopefully generate interest in it, and I think I’d like to have Charlotte finish answering that question. Charlotte?
Charlotte: We’ll be on the farm tour again this year, you know, the one for the Yachats River Valley. One of the other things we’ll do is the Farm to Table stuff that Annie’s doing. We’ll do some group dinners–we do small retreat stuff, for maybe eight or nine people or so.
TYG: Small? That’s not small!
Charlotte: Well, some people do retreats for thirty, you know.
TYG: Where did you get your blueberry bushes? Ours were here when we moved here–but where do you get blueberry seeds?
Charlotte: We buy our fruit trees and our bushes usually either from One Green World, or Raintree Nursery in Washington, because they know about stuff that does well in this climate.
David: Do you want to go in here? [a fenced-in garden area]
TYG: Sure! Can the dogs come in?
TYG: I’m guessing they’d trample the crops?
Charlotte: Yep! So we have a lot of heirloom berries. This is an herb garden...
TYG: How do you step in it without stepping on the herbs?
Charlotte: It would be hard to figure that out right now, because there are weeds left over from last summer, but there are paths through it. It’s a star shape. It looks much better in the summer, Allen.
TYG: I assume these are perennials, but they die off in the winter.
David: These are more blueberries, and these are grapes.
Charlotte: And this is a fig tree. And this is a winter greenhouse.
TYG: Why the radio [playing in the greenhouse]?
Charlotte: Plants like music! They grow better with music. Not head-banger music, though!
TYG: No joke? Studies have proved this? Wow! This is kale? I didn’t know they had such big roots!
Charlotte: This is chard. That’s actually the stem, and they grew all summer, and we transplanted them in there in the fall. That’s our Dr. Seuss kale. [laughter]
TYG: It’s like a miniature Jurassic Park!
Charlotte: [laughter] Isn’t that crazy? And this is asparagus. I tried to grow asparagus for years here, but it rots in the winter. So this [in the greenhouse] is the only way I’ve been able to do it, and I started it from seed. [...] And then there are more berries back here, and more garden space. That’s garlic, and that’s parsley.
TYG: What’s here?
Charlotte: That’s a chicken run. We’ll probably turn them in here in about two weeks, and they’ll have the run of the garden until we start to plant. They eat bugs.
David: Allen, these are raspberries.
Charlotte: This was a covered greenhouse, and one of the big storms we had blew the cover off.
TYG: So it needs a new top?
Charlotte: I don’t know if we’re going to get a new top, or cover individual beds. They are expensive, and I’m not convinced it wouldn’t happen again, because it has roll-up sides. What happens is that the wind pulls the side up, then it blows the end out.
TYG: Why doesn’t that happen on this one?
Charlotte: Because the sides are fastened down all the way to the bottom. It would get too hot [for these plants] if we did that.
TYG-EA: Prior to this, we lived on a place that had a bit of land, and we thought we’d have an opportunity to have a bit of a farm. It turns out we’re not do-it-yourself-ers.
Charlotte: It takes a lot of time! In all fairness to David [who is an oncologist], when we found this place I said, “Oh my god, this is so neat, we really need to buy this!” But David really didn’t understand what that meant! [laughter]
TYG: So, this is all organic?
Charlotte: We are all organic, but we are not certified. We don’t use any pesticides, we don’t use any chemical fertilizer, no herbicides. We buy all heirloom, organic seed.
TYG-GD: What else did you want to say about the tours?
Charlotte: Well, we’re putting them together right now. The Farm Tour is in August. The workshops for gardening and that kind of stuff, we’ll put together and post in early spring.
TYG: Well, thank you so much for your time!