Let me just say this up front: I can’t believe how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful, beautiful state. Well, actually, that’s misleading. I haven’t really ventured further south than Castroville (artichokes!), or further north than Mendocino (Laurences!), but what I have seen has never failed to awe me. What is more breathtaking than the California coast? What? Maybe it is the fact that I grew up in Michigan, whose lakes though they are “Great” are a far, far cry from ocean, and whose terrain though gloriously abundant with trees is a bit topographically challenged. Vistas and views were not something I really knew existed for folks in their everydays; I thought they were relegated to special trips and rewards at the end of long hikes or just something they had in Europe. So, naturally, there is no part of rambling around Highway One and Sonoma county that is not breathtakingly gorgeous and stimulating, and our farm/coast tour was just that. The fact that there are so many farms and happy, grazing animals, the fact that people really LIVE here and work the land, and the fact that it is SO CLOSE to our current residence is both deeply reassuring and something that makes me question why I live in an urban center.
So, Golden Nectar. Phil gave a wonderfully extensive overview of the place, so I would like to offer just a few more impressions of it. I love the fact that this “farm” is first and foremost a home. They were lucky enough to stumble into a couple of acres that were already fairly established, with an already-fruiting orchard, the infrastructure for vines and grapes, and a gorgeous A-frameish house (not so good with technical architecture terms) with a giant trellised patio (from which there is a beautiful view, of course). This brings a lot of questions to mind about the type of land you want to start out with. It is wonderfully romantic to start from scratch, be the master of your own destiny, relinquich the status quo of the built environment and create something truly new and unique. Especially when your intentions to set out on your own land in the first place is to see what a life looks like when it starts as close to zero as possible. But a place like Golden Nectar shows that this is something that would take more time, money, and effort than we may have, and could very realistically have way worse results. Just because you built it yourself doesn’t mean it’s good, right? And if you move somewhere with already fruiting trees, well, you have fruit right away. At least for Golden Nectar, they seem to have hit the jackpot, and this layout is perfectly suited for their needs. There is enough space to grow a little bit of everything (and I mean everything), enough space to recreate, enough space for other guests and friends to come stay and work for varying stints of time, and enough room for DUCKS AND CHICKENS. Wait, that warrants its own paragraph.
We all knew that chickens were fabulous. I personally love to cluck at them (with them?) and chase them around. Ana (to whom Golden Nectar belongs) even referred to their little pen as Chicken TV, because you can sit around and watch those silly beauties all day, and man, do they have some splendid varieties. BUT DUCKS. I mean, I knew you could keep ducks, but I did not know they were SO AMAZING. Ana has three big, beautiful, she-ducks. They have a teeny coop that you keep them in at night, and then they lay their egg (every day!) at around 9AM or so, and you let them out. Yes, you let them out at 9AM. They roam around their WHOLE property all day, and then it is easy to round them up into their coop in the evening because that is when/where you feed them. And these three ducks happened to be the sweetest little ducks ever. They wandered around in a troop to every spot in the garden, here and there, all day. They even hang out with the chickens, because some of them were raised together! These ducks are also very communicative, and shake their little tails in unison whenever you quack at them. (The chickens were into bock-bocking as well, but no tail shaking.) And get this: the ducks don’t fly away! Ana has her chickens’ wings clipped, or at least one of their wings clipped so they fly in a circle and don’t get anywhere. But the ducks, who are actually migratory animals and quite adept at flying are so gosh-darned happy that they DON”T LEAVE.
We could also call this post “Holy Shit, I Really Love Farm Ducks.”
Golden Nectar was such a warm, inviting, and amazing place, the perfect synergy of home and farm. The layout with the garden and farm surrounding the house makes for an environment for really living in and sharing, not just production. They definitely do have a quite a yield every year and sell a lot of it at farmer’s markets. But this seems to be because it is such an abundant space; this is not a “commercial farm” in the traditional sense. It is a space for sharing. I know Ana mentioned having workshops out there, at the very least natural building workshops, which is how their strawbale guest house and earthen oven were produced. A place like this is so wonderful that you can’t keep it to yourself, and it is illuminating even to walk around in, which is why it is so amazing of Ana to open up Golden Nectar to the “public” for tours and such. This is an important aspect of intentional community, which branches to the importance of the physical space you choose to inhabit. You become an example of a way to live, and having an inviting, open space means you can share that example with others. Just how you relate to those others and the world is up to you; it can range anywhere from inviting spectators to watch your life fishbowl style to inviting collaborators and worktraders to washing your guests’ feet spiritual-style to just having open land that is free for people to wander around in. The relationship between your community and the world at large is essential in determining your vision and mission statement, even if (especially if) you decide to completely remove yourself from “society.” I like the idea of inviting and allowing for a wide spectrum of visitors, members, and friends, a non-exclusive invitation that treats all of us humans as would-be collaborators, teachers, and students.
I’ve got more to say, but Lord knows this is getting long. Suffice it to say that I feel like a lucky duck myself for living here and loving you guys. Quack quack.