This is in a remote corner of California (no further location details, no need to bother Jonathan and his wife with visitors), and if the property is fenced it's not to fight off paparazzi or crime but to keep wild animals from coming in and eating the vegetables they grow, because the region being very dry they wouldn't have much left if they didn't close their lot. The area seems to have been inhabited even before the first settlers came in, because they found stones that had the patterns of human work near this house, probably Chumash natives.
I didn't shoot more pictures of the house itself by discretion but it was a marvel of a rustic house in the wilderness, the large living room was, how to say, extremely simple and at the same time so welcoming and imbued with timeless beauty, that's how I imagine the house of an ermit (or a couple of ermits in that case) where you root back to the important things in life, peel off the useless gadgets and connect to mother nature.
There's still room for people to live their dream in the United States, and wandering into the backcountry of Oregon and California convinced me of this, although it's certainly true in other parts of the country from what my past travels taught me. The hippie era may be behind us, but this is the Land of the Free and there's lots of room, both geographically and in the national psyche, for non-conventional individuals who want to follow their own route.
We all grow a few vegetables when we have a foot in the countryside but here it was obviously the source of essential supplies for their daily diet, with the option to can the extra vegetables for winter consumption. It reminded me of all these Russians who also grow and make preserves for the rest of the year using (intendedly or not) pure natural crops.
Jonathan says it's a good soil, and they also add horse manure from time to time, as there are many horses in this area. We walk by a tall wall of some gegetable, I thought it might be something related to beer, but its Lima beans, white beans, and they seem to thrive under the California sun. On the side there are cucumbers and other beans, green beans. The beans are the perfect type of vegetable when you're almost autarcic, they are full of rich nutrients, take little place and dry by themselves. there is also a row of Muscat, a rare type of grape in the area, which where planted by Jonathan's wife with wood taken from a rich vine conservatory of American hybrids dating from the 19th century that was in the historical landmark they were working in (there was close to 200 varieties over there). The grapes can be used for both table consumption and wine making, Jonathan seems to be quite knowledgeable in wine and cites the Muscat wines of Beaumes-de-Venise in the southern Rhone. He says also that this Muscat may resist Pierce's disease, which is a problem in California.
At one point we saw huge tomatoes, I'd call them Coeur de boeuf in France because I 'm not knowledgeable in varieties and it's the only big-tomato variety I know the name of, but these are Brandywine tomatoes, and they are known to reach enormous sizes. They're orange to yellow in color. Elsewhere we see Thessaloniki tomatoes, then some Costoluto Genovese , with a nice gorgeous shape.
To remind readers of this affair on which I wrote about several times, here is what took place a few years ago : In spite of their posturing as promoters of the artisan foods and agricultural products of this country, the French authorities, through its administration and the judicial system actually put their weight to have Kokopelli shut down through huge fines for sharing seeds and promoting agriculture diversity. Kokopelli was fined 35 000 € for selling small paper bags of seeds from almost extinct vegetables, because these seeds weren't "allowed" seeds, they weren't listed in the catalog of authorized seeds (yes, this is not an excerpt of George Orwell's 1984, this is France in the 21st century...). You read correctly, only the variétés autorisées à la commercialisation par le Ministère chargé de l'Agriculture [varieties that are authorized for sale by the Ministry of Agriculture] can be sold in France, and countless indigenous varieties aren't listed there, so selling them to other good-willing home gardeners is a crime that the judges here make you pay deerly, a change, you might say, from their well-documented lax treatment of violent repeat offenders. But I guess, this ancient vegetable seeds exchange was a real, major threat, la république est en danger...
This garden is so large that we visit onle a small part, I'm sure they can live the year around from what they grow here, they have all the usual vegetables, asparagus, rhubarb, artichoke etc, including small fruits like strawberries, raspberries and black berries. Thee are also a lot of Iris because his wife is into flowers. They have a tortoise around here and it loves eating the flowers, but they still leave it there...
It reminds me of an article I read in Carpinteria Magazine about a group of relaxed homebrewers doing tastings and exchanging tips or recipes, I just found this precise article on the web : Pouring talent into making beer, it helps you understand the extent and volume of this label-less beer which is exchanged and consumed under the radar every day in the United States as more and more people enjoy the fun and delights of making their own brew. We in France can grasp the idea of making one's own bread, but making one's own beer and getting this awesome quality is yet another unchartered territory on which we have to set our sights on. Here we are in Jonathan's outbuilding in the middle of California backcountry tasting one of these unique beers...
Incredible foam, gorgeous beer. It's rich, and there's a light bitterness too, very enjoyable.
Jonathan says that these hops, they're not from here, they're from where they used to live before, friends picked them and he made the beer from them. he shows us a plastic bag with dry hops inside, it smells very fresh, like with lemon aromas too. The beer we're drinking has been made with a variety named Cascade, a recent American variety.
[Edit] Law is keeping adapting to the reality in the U.S. and the Governor of California recently signed into law a bill authorizing non-profits to use homemade wine or beer donations in their fundraising practices. Great move.