We were back at the farm on Thursday to do the requisite inspections before closing escrow. After writing large checks to the building, termite, septic and well inspectors, we learned, quel surprise, there is a lot of broken to fix. Not shocking when buying a 50-year-old farm-house, but, sigh.
Here are some more pictures of the place I took while we were there.
The apricots, still going strong
Moving irrigation pipes around – my future.
Front of the house.
See that empty pool in front? I have always wanted to grow water lilies and lotus.
Antique incinerator, to dispose of the evidence I suppose 🙂
There are a few huge old Monterey cypress on the property that cast some delicious shade.
Water tank is rusty but the well produces a whopping 60 gallons a minute. In California, living on top of an aquifer is pure gold.
We were at the farm-to-be the other day, and I got a bit over-excited about the apricot trees there, just coming into an absurd abundance of fruit. Now these three trees have not received much love, or fertilizer, pruning, or even watering, yet they are covered in the most tasty tasty fruit. The sight of those drooping branches over-weighted with ripe sweet gemstones gave me hope that even novice farmers like us could coax some food out of this 8 acres of dirt we are about to buy.
When the current owners gave me permission to pick as much as I wanted, well, I went a little overboard. Now I love apricots above all other stone fruit (except maybe Rainer cherries), but still, no same human or family of humans can eat 10 pounds of apricots before they go bad. And I don’t like canning, all that sugar is not for me. So then I felt a wee bit sheepish and even panicky, since wasting such beautiful fruit seems a serious crime.
Bounty is never a cause for panic, though, only reason for generosity and celebration. I have given away most of the apricots by now, and tonight, I made a truly tasty apricot salsa to go with the fresh halibut from our local fish CSA, Local Catch Monterey Bay.
I get great pleasure from giving things away. Those who know me well, know that I love to craft odd little things, leather pouches, silks scarves, random foodstuffs, and hand them out for birthdays and random events. As I get older, I have lost most of my desire to shop and consume. Producing, making and gifting give me far greater joy. But perhaps that is another post …
In the meantime, I give you all my simple recipe for the apricot salsa, which is just an adaptation of my favorite mango salsa. I think it would work well with just about any pit fruit, and I can’t wait to do a cherry version. These types of pit fruit salsas go well with most fish, chicken or even pork dishes.
Apricots, 1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped
Red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons finely chopped
Red onion, 1 tablespoon finely chopped
Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
Fresh basil and/or mint, 2 tablespoons freshly chopped
Salt, a pinch
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and serve.
Although we are wannabe farmers, Jason and I have been designers forever. So, how do we start a new project? We examine our constraints, then start making diagrams and wireframes of course!
The land we bought comes with an old house, a horse barn, an office/workshop/garage and a requisite crappy shack. There are a few trees already there, but otherwise, it’s just acres of dirt. Very rich dirt, I should add, and some of the best in the country according to local lore.
For a few months now, Jason and I have been reading every book about gardening and farming we can get our hands on, and collecting list of what we want to grow. Now that our offer on the property has been accepted, Jason drew some really neat before and after diagrams of what is already there, what we want to add and where it all will go.
Yes, we bought a farm, an eight acre farm in Watsonville (south Santa Cruz county, CA), to be precise.
Now for the past 15 years or so, my husband and I have been gainfully employed by Silicon Valley. We are software designers. We run our own little agency, which has been moderately successful. We have great clients, an interesting variety of projects and a fairly dependable income. So why the radical change? Or, as I know some members of our families are thinking, “Are you completely out of your frickin’ minds?”
And here is the real truth. The past few years, our enthusiasm for our profession has been waning. It’s not anything in particular, not a job gone wrong or a client who didn’t pay or a project that proved difficult. It’s just, I wake up in the morning, get in front of my computer, and I just can’t always find my “give a shit” anymore. Now don’t get me wrong. I am *extremely* grateful to our clients, and I am not going to chomp down hard on the hand that feeds us. I hope we can continue to do some tech work for a long time to come. But it can’t be the only thing we do anymore. I feel a deep need for something more.
Perhaps more to the point, I feel that sitting on my butt all day is slowly killing me. My back hurts, and I see many of my colleagues going down for back surgery and worse. I miss the sunlight. I want to move and use my muscles. Working for eight hours in a totally stagnant position, and then going to the gym for an hour to try to make up for it seems so futile. I know that recent history has fought hard to develop the privileges of white collar workers that I enjoy today, but honestly, I like me some physical labor.
And most important of all, I believe that providing great organic food to the people in my community is meaningful beyond anything captured by the pure laws of capitalism. I love food, and like many, I am quite suspicious of agribusiness and food manufacturing companies. Don’t even get me started on the horrors fast food. I know of no better way to nurture my own health and other peoples’ than growing great organic produce.
Now, I do feel like a bad remake of “Honey, I Bought a Zoo.” And I am sure we are going to make all sorts of newbie farming mistakes. I will admit that there is a ton I just don’t have a clue about. Jason and I are currently on a self-imposed farming crash course. Our living room is full of books on permaculture, integrated pest management, organic orchards and my bookmarks are exploding with new links about how to build a chicken tractor, making solar dehydrators, the best winter cover crops and how to get certified organic.
(PS: we bulldozed it down. Crappy shacks aren’t very useful)
I think that is why I am just so incredibly excited! There is so much new to learn, and I find it all so fascinating, because ultimately, everything we plan to do is about nurturing and creating life. How cool is that?
This blog is intended to track our adventures moving from silicon valley techies to California coast farmers and every triumph and silly mistake we make along the way.