Most towns in Bodega Bay area are small and each has a general store with canned goods and occasional fresh vegetables.
Gas stations are sparse and you have to travel several towns to find one. You can measure resident size by the number of gas stations – Bodega (where “Birds” by Hitchcock was filmed) has none, Bodega Bay one. Sebastopol however, has 3 plus a Safeways a Whole Foods and two bookstores!
I felt very at home in Sebastopol which reminds me of Asheville NC. A street is named after the Gravenstein apple, and the town is surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards. A mile from the town center is a remnant of Gold Ridge Farm, an experimental nursery established by Luther Burbank, a plant breeding genius, in 1885.
We were fortunate to have extended discussions with the current curator and the former curator, Steve. Steve used to keep bees until he found empty hives with food stores, classic colony collapse disorder. Made me realize this idealized growing area came with attendant problems of industrialized agriculture. Steve described his 30+ nationwide tour of organic farms including Lovell’s biodynamic farm in N. Georgia, not too far from my location. His objective is to write a book on his life experiences with plant growing. Steve recommended we visit the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center in nearby Occidental.
Much of the original farm was converted to senior residential housing but the area that was saved has magnificent specimens of fruit trees (apples, cherries, quince, pear) and berries, walnuts, chestnuts etc. The trees are well established and there is little need for irrigation, fertilizer (llama), or spraying ( dormant) oils. Activities include pruning, grafting and general care. I noted how skilled pruning opened the inside area of their fruit trees.
They weave sticks to form sides for their compost heap.
The local residents support farm activities and at the nursery we were educated on the naked ladies.
We had noticed them, attractive and beckoning along the roadsides in their gaudy pink at the end of 20″ stems without any leaves, hence the term “naked”. The leaves die in spring. One of Burbank’s achievements was to cross a naked lady Amaryllis belladonna with another genus the wild Crinum from the swamps of Florida to produce the hybrid Amarcrinum memoriacorsi.
Before leaving Sebastopol I met with a realtor to discuss local practices, with a view to a possible relocation, one day. Rainwater harvesting is not approved. The houses use wells some with just 1 gal per minute flow others with up to 30 gpm. He was interested in my efficient wood stove and said if we were buying we should purchase a house north of a line demarcation where smoke emissions were not subject to controls. Of course this can change as can the flow rate of an apparently healthy well. Rainfall in the area exceeds 30″ pa, mostly between November and March.
I wanted to visit the Occidental permaculture establishment recommended by Steve and left several messages, unreturned. Their website discourages “drop ins”. We visited the town of Occidental which is in a forest setting with a well provisioned general store and an enticing cafe where the staff is attractive, hip and casual, as you would expect of a town located on “Bohemian Highway”. Our server suggested we visit the center but the well posted signs discouraging drop ins discouraged me too. Perhaps for our next visit.
Heading north on the Bohemian Highway we reach Guerneville once called Stumptown for the clear-cut giant redwood stumps left by logging operations for the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. A few miles north is the Armstrong Redwoods reserve, 800 acres of magnificent specimens many well over a 1,000 years age.
When the trees topple their root mass is striking.
Our destination was Timber Cove a remote hotel on the Pacific cliffs, about 15 miles of cliff twisting road beyond the Russian River Valley and a few miles from Fort Ross founded in 1812 by Russian settlers. A spectacular sunset crowned the day’s end.