A Family Builds a Homestead in the Rain

A Trip to California

To celebrate my grandparents’ anniversary last week, we drove down to Sonoma County for a family reunion. My dad came up for his own vacation to stay on the homestead and care for the dogs, livestock, and garden.

Having made the 9-hour trek (14 or 15 hours total with stops for the dogs and toddler) to Central California eight times round-trip during our move, this journey felt like a piece of cake. And it was to my very favorite part of the state.

Sadly, though, the West is dry, brown, and large swaths are burning. The air was thick, and the light pasty yellow for most of the drive.

Our time with my mom, brother, his girlfriend, and my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents was marvelous. At my mom’s house, we began each morning on the porch, sipping coffee and feeding the birds.

Our little one spent much of her time in the yard, plucking tomatoes and smelling flowers. My mom has always grown the most wild, abundant gardens, with towering hydrangeas, enormous dahlias, and roses for days.

We spent one long morning at the nearby beach– somehow our first time in the sand in more than a year! Per the Northern California norm, it was windy and brisk but such a treat. We built sand castles and collected seashells before driving up the highway for calamari and a beer.

Before we departed for home, our car was loaded with boxes and bags of apples and the sweetest Meyer lemons.

For the past few years in California and across the West, I’ve noticed trees doing peculiar and somewhat alarming things, perhaps under stress of the drought. Though it’s nearing late summer, the beloved Gravenstein apple trees are blossoming. Single trees are eerily producing flowers, young fruit, and ripe fruit at once. It’s beautiful but strange.

In the coming days I’ll be canning dozens of jars of apple sauce, continuing to freeze blackberries, and most likely making a few cobblers or pies. Our trip was rejuvenating but it propelled us into mid-August, where I’m feeling behind, as always, planting fall veggies, preserving produce, and chipping away at the list of farm tasks.

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I'm Kelly. Writer, crafter, forager, country winemaker, cook. Mama of an awesome toddler and married to my best friend. We recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, where we're setting out to grow, make, and learn as much as we can as the future unfolds.

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