Vineyard Spring Hike Splendor

As the Event Planner for Seghesio Family Vineyards, I get to throw some pretty fun events.  Some of my all-time favorite events that we plan and produce are our Home Ranch Hikes.  Four times a year, we guide guests through the vines of our beautiful Home Ranch property, and last Saturday was the Spring Hike.

Our Spring Home Ranch Hike was one of our best hikes to date!  Mid-week before the event, we couldn’t ignore the predicted weather forecast—rain and thunderstorms, so we sent out a warning email to all of our guests, hoping they would still want to participate.  Not only did we receive no cancellations, but each guest arrived excited and ready to hike, regardless of what Mother Nature would throw our way!


One of the many gorgeous views during the hike.

We were led by our vineyard managers Jim & Ned Neumiller, our father and son team who have tended these vines for decades.  The rain greeted guests just before the start of the hike, but quickly departed as the sun began to peak through the clouds.  Starting at Chianti Station, our guests made their way to the top of Sister’s Hill, where they sampled Vermentino and Barbera.


Hiker Tony from Colorado, taking in the beautiful view on Sister’s Hill.

Next, the hikers scaled their way up Rattlesnake Hill, where they tasted Home Ranch Zinfandel and Venom Sangiovese in the very vineyard rows where they are grown.   Once they reached the top of Rattlesnake Hill, they were treated to a gourmet picnic lunch provided by the famous Costeaux bakery in Healdsburg, and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the entire Alexander Valley, which pair perfectly with Seghesio wines.


Jim explaining to guests how we grow our Zinfandel and Sangiovese.

It was a day to remember, made even more memorable by great weather, great wine, and great friends!


Asian Chicken Salad with Crunchy Ramen Noodles

I have a confession to make.  When I was a kid, I had a legitimate addiction to Ramen noodles. I’d eat them as a soup at least once a day, if not more, and eat the dry, crumbled noodles frequently for a snack.  I know, I know, not the healthiest addiction to have, but there was just something about having a warm, steaming bowl of noodles that I barely had to put any effort into making that was just so satisfying.  Since I developed this addiction, Ramen has been my ultimate comfort food.  My goal is to find healthier ways to eat it, and I think this salad is the perfect meal that allows me to do just that!  I hope you enjoy🙂


1-2 boiled chicken breasts (shredded)
½-1 bag of shredded coleslaw cabbage
1 medium carrot- grated (I used a couple handfuls of pre-shredded carrots)
½ bag of broccoli coleslaw mix
2 green onions
1 package Ramen noodles (any flavor, discard flavor packet)
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (toasted)

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup coconut oil (any light oil works)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. sugar
1-1 ½ Tbsp. soy sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
A few dashes of Sriracha to taste

Combine dressing ingredients; mix well and chill (unless you’re using coconut oil, which will make it solidify! Keep at room temperature if so). Combine cabbage, chicken, green onions, broccoli slaw mix, and carrots. Smash dry Ramen noodles in the bag; Sprinkle Ramen noodles and sesame seeds over cabbage mixture. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.  Enjoy!

New look, new direction!

Hi friends!  I’m taking a new direction with my blog.  Although the environment and wildlife conservation are still huge passions of mine, I’d love to share other passions that I experience every day by living in Sonoma County, working in the wine industry, and enjoying life!  My future posts will be about wineries and wine, recipes and food, health and fitness, and whatever else inspires me to write!  I’m extremely excited to get back into the blogosphere again, and I hope you’ll enjoy my future posts!

June 2014- my new life begins- marriage, school, grade... God is giving me a fresh start! :)

Tiny House, Big Benefits.

By: Amanda Artz

As a fresh out of college 20 year old, I’ve learned very quickly the realities of living on my own.  Conserving energy is more important than ever, especially now that I pay my own bills. Rent and housing prices are outrageous, really limiting my options and anchoring me to specific areas of town.  I wish there was a way for me to get off the grid; to choose exactly where I want to live, all while saving money and also living comfortably.  After doing a little research, I think I found my answer, and maybe someday I can turn this little dream into reality.

So many people today have the McMansion mentality, and I believe there is no surer way of destroying our planet than embracing this view.  Why not head in the opposite direction?  Downsize your home, generate your own power, and maybe even make the structure completely mobile, so you can travel wherever and whenever you want.  I’m not talking about living in a trailer, but rather, a Tiny House.

Jay Schafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company standing in front of his Tiny House. Photo courtesy of Tiny House Blog.

A Tiny House is a structure that ranges from 50-750 square feet.  It can moved as desired and support alternative energy generation.  A fully inhabitable Tiny House can be built for as little as $20,000.  You can design and build your own, or go through a company such as Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in Sebastopol, California.  Strict building codes can make it difficult to construct the perfect Tiny House, but websites such as provide tips and advice to work with and around them.

Easy to transport anywhere your adventures take you. Photo courtesy of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

Perhaps my favorite feature of these houses is the fact that they are so alternative energy friendly.  In the video below, a Tiny House is powered by a mobile solar generator called the SolMan.  For those houses in areas with less predictable weather, you could instead use a solar/gas combo generator such as the SolMan Action Packer to insure that you’ll always have available energy reserves.  You could also easily install solar panels on the roof to utilize the available space, essentially taking yourself off the grid and making you completely energy independent.

A Tiny House seems like a great solution to a number of problems many people, including myself, are currently facing.  Becoming a more energy efficient, sustainable individual would be such a freeing experience, and I don’t know about you, but I’m more than up to the challenge.

Mobile Solar Generators: Saving the Earth, One SolMan at a Time

By: Amanda Artz

Mobile generators are necessary for countless applications, from powering shelters during a natural disaster to providing energy to heat a rural cabin in the woods.    But what are the environmental implications of this technology?  Although it would seem that generators are much less harmful than the traditional grid power of a home or business, they carry just as many, if not more negative environmental effects.

Typical mobile generators run on gas.  Any fossil fuel burning device emits greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and ozone into the atmosphere, causing health issues. The process of burning fossil fuels is also the driving force behind global climate change. Additionally, mobile generators produce large amounts of noise pollution.  Noise pollution harbors many negative effects for wildlife, causing them stress, decreasing the usability of their habitat, and disrupting the naturalness of ecosystems.  Noise pollution also creates just as many negative effects on humans.

Exhaust from gas generators can also produce poisonous carbon monoxide gases that can kill if concentrated in high enough levels in poorly ventilated areas.  It is also extremely dangerous to operate mobile generators in moist areas.  On top of this, they can be very heavy and difficult to transport, making them inconvenient for the very purposes they are needed for most.

With all of these negative aspects, the need for an alternative mobile generating solution is great.  Luckily, there is a solar solution.  Solar-powered mobile generators are emission free, lightweight, and use energy from a completely renewable, free energy source.  Also, advances in solar cell technology have made solar panels a much more affordable energy option.

SolMan mobile solar energy generator.

One such mobile solar generator solution is the SolMan, made by a northern California company called SolSolutions.  This all-in-one integrated unit can deliver up to 1200 watts of AC power and 12 volts of DC power.  The design includes a 135 watt photovoltaic panel, three 100 amp/hour deep cycle sealed batteries, a solar charge controller, a watt Meter, a 1500 watt inverter/charger, and external AC/DC plugs, all contained in a light, easily transportable two-wheel cart.  It’s an extremely affordable model made locally out of long-lasting and environmentally friendly aluminum, not plastic.

Mobile solar generators are not the technology of the future—they are the technology of today, and should be used as commonly as hybrid vehicles and reusable shopping bags.  Join other sustainability advocates and support this revolutionary technology, and together, along with the sun, we can rid our earth’s atmosphere of pollution, one SolMan at a time.

For more information about the SolMan, visit SolSolutions’ website.


By: Amanda Artz

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) were both groundbreaking statutory decisions passed during a time of growing environmental awareness and concern. Although both laws had big goals, the clarity of how to reach them was far from crystalline. Because of this, the future of the environment and the wildlife that depend on its health is still in limbo, and unless severe changes are made to both laws, the future looks grim.

The Endangered Species Act’s primary goal is to protect species by “prohibiting the ‘take’ of endangered or threatened species on both public and private lands and to extend the law’s protection to species beyond those directly threatened by hunting and trade” (Watt et al, pg 355). Take is defined in the law as any action that would “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” a species (Watt et al). Because of these new policies, it was thought that thousands of species would be saved from extinction and remain in stable, healthy populations for many years to come.

The National Environmental Policy Act’s primary goal is to protect the environment by requiring federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of every major activity they undertake (Kusbasek). If an activity is found to have a significant impact on the environment, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared. This time-consuming process was thought to make agencies seriously consider their projects, and hopefully design them so that they could avoid the EIS process altogether. This is possible by preparing a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), or a mitigated FONSI, in which if the project was found to have significant impacts, those impacts could be mitigated so they lessen the overall negative effects on the environment (Kusbasek).

Although both of these laws have broad reach and tough tactics (Watt et al), they fail at truly achieving their primary goals. Under Section 10 of the ESA, an “incidental take permit” can be issued, allowing take of a species to occur. Although completion of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is required in order for the permit to be granted, it is still a loophole in the law and the species protection process. Completion of an HCP does not necessarily mean that said HCP will actually positively affect the remaining population/habitat of the species being taken. As for the NEPA process, once an EIS is completed and it is determined that a project will have significant impacts on the environment, the project can still be executed. So in the end, NEPA doesn’t truly protect the environment, it just makes the lead agency consider it.

Big changes are necessary to make these laws more effective in protecting the environment. For the ESA, no take should be permitted and there should be no issuance of incidental take permits, regardless of whether an HCP is completed or not. The definition of take should also be changed to include habitat destruction. As for NEPA, any project that is found to have significant impacts on the environment should not be completed until the lead agency sufficiently mitigates the impact or the project in such a way that no significant impact on the environment would occur. These ideas might not seem politically realistic, but to be honest, nothing that can truly get anything done really is. By continuing to make middle ground, incremental decisions we will continue to have ineffective policies. Both the ESA and NEPA are reactive policies, and until we pass policies that are much more proactive, the environment and wildlife will continue to suffer.


Watt et al, “Reflections on Preserving Ecological and Cultural Landscapes”.

Kusbasek, “Environmental Law”. Prentice Hall. 2007.

State Agency Responsibilities and How I’d Fit In.

By: Amanda Artz

When I think of government agencies that deal with conservation, I think of similar authorities with equal goals, powers, and expectations.  This, however, is far from the case.  Each agency has their own responsibilities, and the regulatory powers they possess vary greatly between them.  Collectively, they act like a system of conservation checks and balances that allow and sometimes hinder one another to accomplish their stated goals.

There are four main roles of state and regional agencies.  Trusteeship, in which agencies are responsible for a resource that requires direct management or ownership authority; regulatory authority, in which agencies grant permits, approve plans, and regulate behavior; planning authority, in which agencies coordinate amongst multiple agencies; and funding, in which agencies give and get money and assistance where needed.  There are many great local examples of agencies that possess and play each of these roles.  Armstrong Woods State Park is managed by California State Parks.  They have trusteeship and are responsible for managing the various biological resources of the park, such as the black-tailed deer population, old-growth redwood trees, and non-native, invasive plant species out-competing the native ones.  Although California State Parks manages resources, they have no regulatory authority over those said resources.  All regulatory authority regarding these resources is possessed by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG).  For example, say the black-tailed deer population of the park was exploding due to the absence of large predators in that ecosystem, so much so that the deer over-grazed the park’s vegetation to the point that their population and those of other, lower trophic levels were experiencing massive die-offs due to starvation.  California State Parks could write a black-tailed deer population management plan that proposed the use of injectable contraceptives, but could NOT enforce this plan unless it was approved by the CDFG.

Another great example of a specific agency role is that of the Coastal Conservancy, which provides grants, funding, and assistance to agencies and non-profits that need it.  Let’s say that a large ranch connecting Armstrong Woods to the Jenner Headlands just went on the market.  The parcel is privately owned and contains sections of the Russian River and surrounding watershed, and valuable potential public coastal access.  Armstrong Woods is a state park and therefore has no budget to purchase this land (Proposition 21 was a nice thought!), but can work together with a non-profit conservation group such as Save the Redwoods League, and the Coastal Conservancy, a state agency dedicated to protecting and enhancing the coast.  By working together, the land could be obtained and eventually Armstrong Woods could be expanded.  The Coastal Conservancy could give Save the Redwoods League a grant to purchase the land, and then the League could donate the land to Armstrong Woods State Park.  It bothers me that it takes the cooperation of so many agencies in order to meet a main conservation goal, because the longer it takes for the agencies to come together and agree on a plan, the more likely certain land parcels could be bought by private parties for development or other, non-conservation purposes.  With that being said, I still like the way that different roles of government agencies create this system of checks and balances, because I feel that this way, no agency can get too powerful and make decisions without the approval and agreement of other agencies, and this creates better conservation decisions in the long run.

If I magically got a job in a government agency, I would without a doubt choose the California Department of Fish and Game.  I love that this agency has both the responsibility of managing resources AND has regulation authority to grant permits, approve plans, and regulate behavior.  My dream position there would be a mixture of both roles.  I would manage the California mountain lion population, with my ultimate goal being to GPS collar every lion in California so that the entire state’s population could be studied and tracked in great detail.  This would be extremely useful in determining how the lions move throughout their ranges using corridors of what’s left of the habitat in the state and monitoring their behaviors and actions, especially when a human-predator conflict occurs.  To accompany this wildlife management role, I would also oversee the issuance of depredation permits, which are the only approved means of mountain lion hunting besides self-defense as regulated by the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990.  Since all mountain lions would be collared, I could locate and move any mountain lion involved in a conflict with humans (such as causing a rancher grief) to a different, uninhabited range, far away from humans (and livestock) so that the problem was solved and this important species wouldn’t have to be killed.  I feel that this dream position is the perfect way to interrelate both roles of the CDFG, and by working with other government agencies that possess other, different but equally important roles, we could truly make a positive difference for the California mountain lion population.