In this time of Corona, spending this much time at home is a revelation. I love my home and garden and neighbors and neighborhood. I feel so blessed to have landed here. It is possible that all of my travels informed my choices subconsciously. I am so happy to be at home. I just read this in The Little Bookshop at Big Stone Gap, and it resonated.
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by–
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban–
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
and be a friend to man.
-Sam Foss “The House by the Side of the Road,” from Dreams in Homespun.
From my front porch I watch the world go by and interact with my neighbors from a safe physical distance. We can care for one another, check in daily, and I know that I am also seen. The energy that I use to interact with strangers when I travel, I am now spending to get to know my neighbors at a deeper level. It feels good and we enjoy a stronger community as we all expand our circle of caring.
I enjoy a weekly podcast of BBC Desert Island Discs. I just finished the Daniel Radcliffe episode. I’ve also noticed that the some people are creating self-isolation playlists and sharing on Instagram. Satellite Sister Lian Dolan created two with the themes of survival. We may as well have fun with it while we are waiting and looking out for one another by staying home.
I haven’t created a playlist since I dropped my youngest child off at UC Santa Cruz. And I don’t listen to as much music as I once did. So when I imagine being interviewed by the BBC presenter on Desert Island Discs, I think of the songs inspired by my travels.
My first big trip outside the United States was to Catrine in Ayrshire with Teen Missions when I was 16 years old. I came home at the end of the summer and discovered that My Sharona by the band The Knack had completely taken over the airwaves. My high school pep squad and student body adapted it to our school name, “La-Si-er-ra” and yet I had not heard it once! While I was in Scotland we sang a lot of Christian songs but weren’t allowed to listen to the radio; however, I did develop a real soft spot for bagpipe music and all things Scottish. Later I fell hard for the twins from Edinburgh, The Proclaimers. I have every album recorded by Charlie and Craig Reid and the disc I want in my COVID shelter in place is The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues.
My next travel adventure was to study summer school in Cambridge, England. First my then husband and I drove around England, Wales and Scotland. I loved Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home, and was bummed to find out that it didn’t reach the same popularity in America.
I didn’t travel much while I raised my children–annual trips to Yosemite were more the norm. So when I was newly divorced I gave solo travel a go. Except air travel to meet up with a friend or group, I had not had complete control of an itinerary before and the rebel in me loved it. I chose London and Dublin for my first solo foray and I fell hard for Ireland. That trip I was mad for Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping. (And for the record, I apologize for linking to some truly bad videos.)
Within a few years I was semi-regularly volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Northern Ireland in Belfast. I even marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick. There were many songs that I enjoyed singing as we enjoyed the culture in NorIreland. On one of my last trips a young builder who was apprenticing at the site shared with me his favorite song at the time: Voodoo Child by the Rogue Traders.
I discovered New Zealand through Habitat for Humanity as well. I met a group of Kiwis on a Jimmy Carter Build in Cambodia and the next year led a team to Wellington, New Zealand. Music was a big part of the build and I discovered Brooke Fraser. One of my favorite songs is Something in the Water.
I have returned many times to New Zealand and I like many other Kiwi artists besides the obvious–the phenomenal Lorde. I was briefly obsessed with Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep. I have memories connected with the New Zealand National Anthem and the Rugby Union theme song for the Rugby World Cup, World in Union. Sometimes I would discover a song on Kiwi road trips that was a hit in New Zealand but not yet in the United States, such as Glad You Came by The Wanted.
The biggest connection with a song on any of my adventures was summer of 2014 when I followed the Tour de France from Yorkshire to Paris. For part of the tour I joined a Thomson spectator tour in the Alps. Our bus driver had a great playlist including Enrique Inglesias’ Bailando. If I only could take one song to my desert island it would be this one.
Working at home all day and then spending all evening at home is not quite as isolating as being stranded on a desert island. I have Facetime with my grandson and daughter and phone calls and texts with colleagues and friends. Still, there is a growing sense of the end of the world as we know it. Just as 9/11 ushered in a different set of priorities, so too will this pandemic.
It is Saturday 3.14 so you have time to either make a pie or find a pie shop and, most importantly, eat pie! I don’t need an excuse and I’ve been baking and enjoying eating pie at specialty bakeries.
I gave a pie coupon to a friend and she hinted that when Lent is over she’d like a key lime pie. I’ve never made one so I searched for a recipe. Decided to try Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe with macadamia nuts in the graham cracker crust. The pie itself has just three ingredients: lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and 4 egg yolks. I shared it with my neighbors over dinner and it was intensely sweet and sour. Yum.
If you are in Humboldt County, proceed to Bittersweet/Slice of Humboldt Pie a pie and cider shop in Arcata, California. I had a delicious salad so I could eat the peanut butter pie (with chocolate bottom layer) for dessert. My friends enjoyed a chicken pot pie and the chocolate bottomed banana cream pie and the apple pie. Yum, yum, yum, yum!
If you are in Sacramento, there is a new pie shop in Carmichael (a suburb of Sacramento) called I (heart) Pie. Mom and I checked it out. They just serve pie and coffee or tea. The website suggested they might offer other food so we had to reroute to Rubios for lunch and then try the coconut cream pie. Yum! The shop had just been profiled in the local paper so many options were sold out. They bake 8 inch pies and normally serve in quarters. We bought a whole pie and asked them to cut by six slices so Mom and I could enjoy a slice each and she could take the rest home to share with friends. Everyone wins.
Funny coincidences happen. I was preparing for a trip to the north coast near Eureka, California and I listened to an episode of Teaching Your Brain to Knit podcast and they extolled the enjoyment of touring the Dick Taylor chocolate factory in Eureka. Then I checked in with my friends the Watloves as to any plans, and Harriet mentioned that Brian wanted to take us all to tour of Dick Taylor Chocolate. A few days later we found ourselves at said premises. There were no tours available but plenty of chocolate to taste.
We tried the drinking chocolate, which was so rich that the sample quite satisfied. One of the salespeople gave us an extensive explanation of how chocolate is produced. I’ve been to the Cadbury factory in Dunedin, NZ and the process is very similar. The main difference is one of scale. As a chocoholic I didn’t mind listening to the magic of how the humble cocoa bean becomes delicious.
All that was left was to shop. They ship for free to anywhere in the USA if you purchase $25 or more of chocolate.
We were in Old Town Eureka so it was easy to proceed to Arts and Drafts where you can do crafts while you enjoy a beer. Or to my favorite print shop and stationary store, Just My Type Letterpress.
Crocker Art Museum in downtown Sacramento is one of the adventures my grandson and I enjoy together. We started visiting when Cal just started walking, and he loved going up and down the stairwells and walking along the long corridors. He was afraid of the elevators but loved looking at the sculptures and glass sculptures in the stairwells. The museum is a quirky mix of old mansion and new museum connected by long ramps–perfect for toddler legs to run along. Now he confidently explores all parts of the museum.
Tot Land on the ground floor of the old mansion is always a popular stop. There are a number of structures and activities to keep people under 5 busy. Over the years there have been additional exhibits for kids and by kids. There are also art programs for Wee Wednesdays (ages 3-5) and Artful Tots (19-36 months)–check the calendar for specific dates.
If your child guests are older than 5, you may want to use the Story Trail books available at the admission desk to go on a museum art scavenger hunt.
The cafe has a variety of foods. We bring our own kid snacks and I get a beverage or light snack and relax (briefly) in the light filled dining space.
It is worth a membership to make more frequent trips easy. Then if you are having a fussy day, you don’t worry about a short visit. If you are trying it out for the first time, your visit is free for children under 5, and costs youth to 17 $6, seniors and students $8, and adults $12. Your entrance is good all day and it is walking distance to Old Sacramento, so you may combine your activities.
If you are traveling on Highway 101 through the Monterey area and want a taste of the Central Coast, Pezzini’s is a great place to stop. It is easy to reach from the highway and return on your journey. This market offers ready made artichoke and other local produce treats.
You can also step out into the fields surrounding Pezzini’s to get a closer look at how artichokes and brussel sprouts grow.
On this day I bought an artichoke cupcake. I’m happy to report that it was very yummy!
Pezzini’s offers a unique tasting and shopping experience. I’m going to add it to my things to do when I go to the Monterey Peninsula with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Gianni’s Pizza.
There are always landmark restaurants in every town that locals know well, but people visiting might never hear about. And then when a town gets big enough, there are landmarks that people outside of that neighborhood may not be aware of its existence. Such is Stagecoach Restaurant in South Sacramento. My friends who grew up in the neighborhood couldn’t believe I’d never tried it, so we all met up for breakfast on a Tuesday morning.
As you can see by the exterior A-frame, it has been on the Florin Road for a long time. The interior is just as iconic as the exterior. We were in the room in the back with the regular men’s bible study group. The service was very good.
The portions are generous–enough to make two meals. All of us struggled to make a dent in our plates. The menu has soul food and other hard-to-find breakfast items. My friend Nailah ordered the catfish and loved it.
I enjoyed the Stagecoach and understand why it has stayed open and enjoyed a loyal following.
In my lifetime California has turned from a conservative leaning state to a solidly liberal state. We have two presidential libraries–one for Richard M. Nixon and one for Ronald Reagan and there are still many Republicans, Libertarians, and other conservatives living in California. They are out-numbered by Democrats 2 to 1, and also outnumbered by people declining to state a party (independents). The Republicans might have remained more competitive if Governor Pete Wilson had not decided to villify Latinos and lost their votes (most are not immigrants either) for the forseeable future. One of the remaining conservative enclaves is Simi Valley in Ventura, CA. It is just down the road from Apricot Lane Farm. Traffic being tricky, I opted to arrive super early and stop somewhere close to the farm for breakfast. All reviews pointed to the Egg House.
As I drove down Los Angeles Boulevard I noticed storefronts for evangelical churches, but otherwise this part of Simi Valley looks like a suburb almost anywhere in California. The Egg House is not impressive from the outside. It is in a building where you might find an Ace hardware store, but it does have parking. The inside was a lovely surprise! It is super clean and reminds me of the hip diners around Nashville. Maybe this is where country music artists live when they are in Los Angeles?
The waiter brought me my diet coke (I’d already had coffee) and a complimentary piece of coffee cake. The frosting was super sweet, but the base cake was yummy. My scrambled eggs were perfectly cooked, the bacon was crisp and the pancakes were very tasty. They might have a little cornmeal in the batter. My service was super and if you are visiting the Presidential Library then I highly recommend the Egg House for breakfast or lunch.
Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. The easiest way to visit Los Angeles (domestically) is flying into the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. And now it is easier to rent a car from BUR at the car rental facility. It has been awhile since I’ve needed to attend to business in Los Angeles. Southwest Airlines flies almost every hour directly to Burbank from Sacramento. It is a small airport and easy to access by train or automobile.
The car rental agencies used to be located at the end of the United terminal with a small lot for cars. Some of the rental agencies required you take a bus to their lots. Now everything is located together in a new multi-story facility. It is a bit of a hike to the facility, but much easier once you are there.
I once took a human-centered design workshop and they challenged our groups to redesign a process that didn’t work well. We chose the car rental experience. We redesigned it into something that is like the experience today of taking Lyft from the airport (except with ride-sharing you don’t get to keep the car). My experience with Alamo was almost stress free. They no longer print the contract out on an old printer with carbon forms. They sent me off with my contract and I was met by a greeter who directed me to my economy car. It took longer to walk to the office than it did to rent my car and be on my way. One more reason Burbank is the best airport if you are visiting Los Angeles.
Have you been to Universal Studios or one of the other movie studio tours? I came awayf from my first studio tour marveling at how so many facades and stage props are so fake looking and yet look so real on film. I am happy to report that after seeing The Biggest Little Farm and then touring the real Apricot Lane Farms (the focus of the documentary), it is a match!
Located close to Simi Valley and the suburban development of Moorpark, you drive only a few minutes through orchards and hoop houses to reach Apricot Lane Farms. The contrast with the neighboring farms is most stark when you stand at Alan York Point (named for their mentor). On the next farm over there is nothing but bare ground as they clean up after an organic raspberry operation. The erosion on the hillside, the bare soil exposed to the Santa Ana winds, compared to a regenerative farm that is bursting with life.
Apricot Lane Farms is both California Certified Organic and biodynamic certified. They grow and sell seasonal stone fruit, citrus, avocados, pasture-raised eggs, vegetables, herbs, marmalade, lamb, pork and beef through four farmers markets a week, a couple of individual grocery stores, and a couple of chefs. They do not currently have a selling problem; they have a supply problem. And they uniquely have a Los Angeles based market that can pay for the increased quality ($16 typically for a dozen eggs). They want to expand to three more farmers markets.
Co-owner Molly Chester experienced some health issues that led her to become a traditional food chef in Hollywood. She is still the most active partner in farm operations (John Chester is a film maker foremost). Her interests led them to Apricot Lane Farms and together, with their mentor Alan York, adopt these five pillars.
Apricot Lane Farm’s 5 Pillars:
Soil health is the foundation for everything else…
Growing the healthiest food
Treating animals ethically and evolutionarily appropriate
Regenerating the land
They quickly discovered that uncovered soil is dying soil, so the cover crops are key and tilling has been almost entirely eliminated. In the garden, they sometimes cover the ground with plastic. Today, the only bare soil is the roadways, and the soil fertility in the pastures and orchards has recovered. At the beginning the soil was testing 1-3% organic matter and after 8 years the soils are testing between 3-6%, and the vegetable beds at 11%. For each percent increase in organic matter they are sequestering 21 tons of carbon per acre per year.
Trevor is the manager of the farming operation, and John Chester described his job as integrating the six farming enterprises. There is essentially the pasture, cow, chicken rotation; the orchard, duck, sheep rotation; the pigs stand alone, and the truck crops. The composting operation undergirds it all. And 15 bee hives spread around the farm are among the pollinators. Ten percent of the farm is set aside for habitat (mainly in and around the pond) but they are expanding this to 15% and already count over 100 bird species and 215 native plant species.
It is a unique operation because it does have revenue from entertainment (movies, shorts, children’s books, etc.). This is why the buildings are built to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. And they have a 12 person people mover for tours.
Apricot Lane Farms uses less water than the conventional counterparts. When they purchased the farm, Ventura County was in severe drought and everyone in the basin had their water use curtailed by 25%, but then they’ve been able to use 15-20% less. In addition, the are able to infiltrate rain water back in to the aquifer. This past winter when they received an above normal 24 inches of rain, they had no run-off except on the roads.
I easily geek out over agricultural stuff. You may be interested to know that the food grown on a regenerative farm is also more nutritional and tastier. It is also good to know that farming can be part of the climate solution.