Our 38 acres used to be near the center of an historic 1000 acre ranch named Spring Gulch, settled in the very early 1850s. The barn on the property dates back over a hundred years, and is made out of hand-hewn beams. The house across the street used to be our barn’s counterpart, and is over 150 years old, with a spring in its basement! There was little to no other sensible infrastructure. Starting with a nearly blank slate forces us to put thought and intention into every aspect of developing the concept and place.
This farmland would be considered marginal, at best, but seemed suitable for a project like this, due to the physical configuration of the land, the access to both Yosemite and the San Francisco area, the mild though (relatively) rainy climate, the length of the growing season, and importantly because of the human value of understanding how to live in relation to marginal land, as prime farmland is expensive and not generally available in many locations.
Choosing to undertake a project that faces an inherent conflict between ecological interface and agricultural management is by no means unique to this place, though its location in relation to its surroundings offers a gut level sense of this challenge. The brief and varied European/Asian settlement history of only the past 160 years in this area (which was never systematically logged) means that we’ve taken on the management of a lightly human altered, yet still, fundamentally wild place. We carry this responsibility in all of our decision making, though will never truly understand the implications of our actions.
After trying to purchase the property for almost two years, we finally began in March, 2014, and have been feverishly pushing all sides of the development at once. Fully cart before the horse. We had a small herd of animals before serviceable fencing, milk before refrigeration, and a farm before a house. The work that lies ahead is in some ways less daunting than the experience of what we've already moved beyond. May we never lose our relation to this visceral time.