Lately, I've been hyper-aware of the architectural, landscape, interior and graphic details of modern homesteading design, on account of the Colorado project I've been apart of. The project is taking a 25 year old apartment building, with little architectural interest, and bringing it up to date on a very, very tight budget. We are going for a *modern mountain* vibe, and this little vacation in the wine country has supplied lots of inspiration. Today, I'm focused on ART.
The always fun restaurant Barn Diva, and it's art gallery next door, Studio Barn Diva, are a feast for the homesteaders eyes. I've found myself drawn to a lot of metal artwork this week...the *Studio* was full of it!
Here is a wonderful piece of metal artwork that I first noticed two years ago while taking dinner at Barn Diva with friends. It's a life-sized sculpture of a farmer, formed out of one continuous piece of wire. His wife (not shown) stands on a parallel wall above a row of tables. What's most exciting about this piece is how it casts shadows on the underlying wall, based on how light is cast on it. Look at the image above. First notice the sculpture, then look at how different the shadow's image is. The sculpture is of a straight-faced farmer, the shadow is of a man forlorn. It's creator, Seth Minor, has many more smaller pieces in the gallery next door.
Another artist at the *Barn*, Ismael Sanchez, does similar work but with many cut pieces of wire. The impact of his life size figures and animals packs a powerful punch. I, of course, fell in love with his chicken.
Everyday, we pass this adorable group of goats playing poker and enjoying wine. One goat stands at the roadside taking a picture of the tourists driving by. At night time, it's illuminated for a completely different effect.
I adore the Dry Creek General Store. It's just that simple.
Established in 1881, and still going strong 130 years later, this place is the quintessential modern day general store. Lucky for me, we drive past it every time we leave, and return, to our summer rental.
Their shelves are lined with locally produced treats from the folks at places like Happy Girl Kitchen (the folks who taught me how to can!!!) and Kiki's Treats (chocolate covered graham crackers, anyone?), to name a few. Mixed in with the edibles are unique gifts that any homesteader would be proud to give, and/or love to receive.
The deli, with it's freshly prepared gourmet foods of locally grown, organic meats and produce, has yet to disappoint. The menu is extensive, the countertop - overflowing, and if you can forgive the less than enthusiastic staff, you're going to really enjoy yourself.
Today we stopped by for lunch and (woops!) ended up staying for dessert: fresh, homemade "Italian donuts".
They were incredible. Much more dense than what we know as an American donut, they came sprinkled with superfine sugar and a hint of citrus.
I was thrilled to spot some jars of my favorite Verde Olive Oil Body Balm by McEvoy Ranch. (It was displayed between a rack of old school candy bars and hardcover coffee-table-worthy books on farm life.) I grabbed a couple jars to have on hand for future hostess gifts while fighting the urge to purchase the latest edition of Extraordinary Chickens.
We had the rare opportunity to break away this afternoon and do a long bike ride through the Dry Creek Valley, just the two of us. So I gathered together all my protective clothing, most importantly, my neon flowered flip-flops, and set out on a 20 mile *peddle* through the countryside.
Daddy didn't want me to get run over by a tractor and insisted I wear a helmet. Fair enough, but I always insist on wearing a brimmed hat. The outcome looked like this:
Not sexy. And yet I swear it took everything out of the man not to dry hump my leg all day. ;-)
The temperature was an ideal 84 degrees and so we peddled and chatted, chatted and peddled until we reached Healdsburg in time for lunch.
We had hoped to try the new SpoonBar at the h2 Hotel, but were disappointed to learn it was closed for lunch on Tuesdays. So we made reservations for dinner instead, and walked around oh-ing and aw-ing all the great landscape, architectural and interior details.
Just outside the restaurant's entrance was this incredible work of art paying homage to, what else, the spoon. The sound of water drizzling down a wall balancing hundreds of teetering spoons was just so sweet and calming.
Inside the lobby, I had a seat on a multi-patterned Missoni couch (when are they not?!), and looked beyond some highly lacquered coffee tables of reclaimed wood to a stunning piece of art by Stephen Galloway. It all tied in very well with my flip-flops, don't you think?
On the way home, I took this picture:
I just love the sight of an endless field of agriculture, interrupted only by a barn's corrugated metal roof.
My birthday was on Saturday. I'm 35 36 37 38.
One of my girlfriends sent me a hilarious email where she wrote: "Happy Birthday! I hope your day is filled with well-behaved children, an adoring husband and delicious meals that don't involve you cooking or cleaning."
I'm happy to report, it was. :)
I wanted to share a couple gifts that were given to my by my neighborhood girls. I just love these. Bridget, my favorite neighbor to the left of me, gave me the above ceramic accessories for the kitchen. I've always adored the ceramic square baskets for strawberries or tomatoes, and she also gifted me a sunshine yellow mini butter dish. Had she read my diary? Did she know we were operating with no butter dish and that I have fantasies of keeping butter on the counter at room temperature? I love its half-scale.
Then there is Sarah, my favorite neighbor right behind me. She and I share many interests: chickens, gardening and food, being just a few. She gave me this adorable set of bud vases set in a mini version of an antique milk bottle basket. Such great gifts for the homesteader in me. Thanks, Ladies!
Daddy and I had dinner at the new El Paseo Chophouse. Yowzers! If you need a special place for that special occasion, consider it. It was incredible!
There is a little known secret in the world of *family fun* and it's called Marin Organic. I know, I know, it doesn't sound right, but trust me. I've had the good fortune of accessing some pretty amazing things in our local agriculture just by being on the Marin Organic email list. Go to their website, sign up for their emails, or better yet, do your community a favor and become a member, it starts at just $40 year. Besides supporting an incredible organization, that in turn supports local farming and farmland, you will be privy to some incredible opportunities for you and your family.
Like this past Saturday when I signed the family up to take a private tour of Clark Summit Farm outside of Tomales. Third generation farmer, Liz, and her husband Dan, were more than welcoming when they allowed a handful of us to walk their land. They only laid down one rule, "Don't pick up the baby pigs."
And there were hundreds of them!!! It was enough to make your heart melt. The kids were in heaven and the baby was squealing just like a piglet. It's a shame those baby pigs don't like to be held!
After our visit to the farm, and at the recommendation of Kerry, from Marin Organic, we headed back into town and stopped at the Tomales deli for an incredible lunch of local, organic fare. The kids were able to order chicken tenders, (cooked to order and made with, get this -- real, honest-to-goodness chicken!!! Woo-hoo!), while Daddy enjoyed a grass fed burger and I, a locally caught albacore tuna melt.
Yesterday was the day I had been looking forward to for weeks - it was our day to tour of the Straus Family Farm in West Marin. The farm is home to Albert Straus, son of original owners Bill and Ellen Straus, his family, as well as 300 gorgeous, healthy, happy cows.
Beautifully situated on rolling hills that kiss down on Tomales Bay, you'd never know you were passing this beloved family farm as there are absolutely no markings to indicate such, only a simple number on a sign.
Straus cows are happy cows. Nobody needed to tell us that, it was just clear as day, right there in front of us. They graze in the pasture all day long, eating grass and socializing.
They do get some supplemental feed, which they love, but not enough to cause health issues that you hear of with factory farms. These cows never receive antibiotics, pesticides in their feed or growth hormones. The grain was stored undercover in a sort of open-air barn (I'm sure it has a name), divided into three different areas. We were told it took a long while for them to source 100% organic, non-GMO feed for their girls, but they are very proud of the fact that they did and that their heifers receive the best money can buy.
Some really interesting, dust covered cobwebs on wood posts dividing the feed storage areas.
Harley, the farm manager, jumped in and out of our tour, sharing his incredible knowledge of all things dairy farm. These are his boots:
Everyone's favorite part of the tour - baby heifers. Man were these little girls sweet! Immediately, their unique personalities were revealed to us. Some ran, hopped and kicked around the pen, some rested peacefully in the hay, while others came straight up to us at the fence trading licks for pats. About six months ago, Harley started naming all the newborns with the intention of every Straus cow having a name someday. I just love that!
This is Monique:
This little girls just tore at my heartstrings when she approached my open hand and started sucking on my index finger.
The only disappointing part of the tour was learning that all calves are separated from their moms at birth. (Industry standard, sniffle, sniffle) Everything else about these cows lives is amazing - truly it is. But in order to run a dairy, cows can only be used for one thing and that's milk production. So the baby boys are sold and the baby girls are raised on the farm, in a barnyard setting. There is a machine (The Urban U40!) that provides them milk on demand and we got to see it up close and personal. When a calf enters one of it's two stalls, it scans her tag and provides her access to her daily quotient of cows milk, on demand. Here are some images of it:
Towards the end of the two-hour tour, it was time for the ladies second milking. They were all sauntering down the hill towards the milk parlor. I just love this picture; can you see what's going on here?
All these ladies, with their utters down to THE GROUND were just standing next to this truck, watching the mechanic work.
When I looked at this lady and jokingly remarked, "Ouch - I remember those days!", the farm manager asked, "Oh, you worked on a dairy farm?!" Er, uh - sorta...I've had three kids - does that count?!? ;)
They have a lot of advanced technology on the farm (remember the Urban U40?) but some things are still old school.
The Milk Parlor. All the ladies line-up and take turns, fourteen at a time.
What would a tour of the Straus Family Farm be without some organic ice cream? Cheers!
To learn more about Straus Creamery or to take a tour of their farm, visit their FAQ page.
In just the few months that have passed since we researched chicken coop designs for our own ladies, there has been an EXPLOSION in the world of modern, chicken coop designs. Had we planned a bit better, we might have something in our yard a tad more exciting than the chicken-wire-wrapped-frame that houses Beatrice, Simone, Princess and Lady Gaga. Regardless, it's still fun to be a voyeur into the chicken coop revolution. Here is some of my favorite *egg-candy*:
*Modern Chicken Coop* by Terrabella
The economics of homegrown eggs goes out the frickin' window with this one. *Cocorico* by Maxime Evrard is a bit *egg-stream* in my eyes, but gorgeous nonetheless.
*Eglu Cube* by Omlet. If I had to do it all over again, this is the coop we should have purchased. We avoided it due to it's pricetag but have probably spent more in the end.
*Breed Retreat* by Frederik Roije
I love that this one looks like a trailer. *Modern Coop*
Custom coop by architects Mitchell Snyder and Shelley Martin
The baby ate a lot of poop yesterday.
In an otherwise enchanting day on the farm, we celebrated a three-year old's big day while mingling with (mostly) free-roaming chickens, ponies, rabbits and geese.
And all their poop too.
**Note to self: Boost kiddos immune systems by exposing them to more farm dirt and poop. CHECK.
Yesterday was my ideal winter's day. The air was calm and crisp, and the sky was dark with the clouds of a storm in the making. The conditions were perfect for picking every last olive off our tree before heading to McEvoy Ranch for their community milling day.
With somewhere between 10 and 20 lbs. of fruit, we packed the family into the car and drove up north to Petaluma for a new kind of adventure, as well as some quality time with good friends.
The ranch is tucked away off the main road and over the hill. One would easily miss it if unmarked. But once you turn down the driveway and wind your way around the property you begin making your way to a very enchanting spot. Up over the hill is 80 acres of orchards, pond and milling facility. It has more of a spa retreat feel to it than it does of a working ranch. Then again, this is the wine country. Secret spots of *splendor* are never hard to come by.
After checking in and being weighed, our olives were added to the community bin. All the olives in the bins were so small compared to ours, which were massive, glossy and juicy. I have no idea if any of these characteristics elevate our olives to a higher status then the others, but I've convinced myself that it does and that I'm most certainly responsible for it.
There is a very special place around here and it's called Slide Ranch. This past weekend, the big guy took some of the little guys and headed out there for what was supposed to be a family campout. Unfortunately, the rains dampened that plan but the good people out on the ranch still hosted everyone for an abbreviated four-hour day on the farm.
The kids came home wet and dirty just like I like them. They talked of hiking to the fennel forest, playing with chickens, milking goats and eating fresh baked pumpkin bread with hot cocoa while sitting on the cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
"For a lot of kids in the Bay Area, the environment seems like a distant thing that just isn't relevant in their day-to-day lives. Slide Ranch, located on the dramatic Marin coast, connects visitors with the natural world and teaches kids about their interdependence with the environment.
Spend the day exploring the intersection of cultivated and wild lands: in the organic garden, walking the trails, milking a goat and feeding the chickens or just sitting on the bluff above the roaring ocean. Learn how our choices impact our health and the health of the planet."
2025 Shoreline Highway
Muir Beach, CA 94965