Living the dream | TheUnion.com

Living the dream

Shirl Mendonca
Lake Wildwood

Christine Riccio, owner of Birney Springs Farm, and partner Mark Sheffer stand with one of two burros they adopted from BLM.

There is nothing like a summertime visit to a farm overflowing with fresh veggies, fruits, flowers, and a variety of farm animals roaming the grounds.

I just discovered Bitney Springs Farm, the most fabulous farm only eight minutes from the Lake Wildwood main gate and only a mile past Pleasant Valley School at 16152 Bitney Springs Road.

Using all organic practices, owner Christine Riccio is living her dream as a full-time farmer after eight years of "practice" farming which included planting an orchard and testing crops to see which varieties worked best on her land.

All the while, she reverse commuted to her 33-year "career" at Stanford Research Institute in the Bay Area.

Recent "budget cuts" and a layoff left her the time to follow her dream and venture into farming full time.

Chris's partner and soon-to-be husband, Mark Sheffer of Sheffer Plumbing, is her backup and support system whose creativity ads unique character to the farm; be sure to check out his chicken coop made from pallets and his solar water tower shower that anchors a very relaxing patio right off the creek — worth a visit just to see what he has done.

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Chris does not regret trading business suits and PowerPoint presentations for a hat, tennis shoes, shorts and dirty fingernails.

She is relaxed and happy as she works tirelessly taking care of her 100-plus chickens including a nursery of meat chicks (she does her own slaughtering), a 100-tree orchard, very large separate fields of pumpkins and berries, and rows upon rows of all types of veggies, melons, fruits and flowers covering a fair amount of her 20-acre plot, complete with a pond and a NID ditch. The patch of sunflowers is just brilliant in the morning sun.

It is easy to see that Chris values happy animals on her farm. Her chickens have free range access to the large orchard, access to a shady beach along the creek, and plenty of places to duck into to get out of rain or strong sun.

All of her animals have lots of roaming space with sheds for shade and cover.

Chances are good that when you come to the farm you might be met at the gate by two mischievous but very friendly burros adopted from BLM, named Rudy and Lars and a rather large but friendly dog that Chris and Mark rescued recently.

In any event, a visit to Bitney Springs Farm will make for some healthy eating and a wonderful farm experience.

Current egg shares are sold out but there will be more in the near future, along with jugs of compost tea and lambs she is raising for meat.

Chris is also looking forward to being able to offer Farm to Table dinners to the community.

For now, the farm is open to sell a wide variety of veggies and flowers on a self-serve basis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

If you have any questions or want to place a special order, Chris can be reached at 530-432-3214.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at shirlmendonca@gv.net.