In my last post, I mentioned that it’s easy living around these parts lately. Last weekend, I experienced a different kind of usual bliss at our friends’ organic farm in the mountains near San Luis Obispo, California. Don’t misunderstand- the farm life, though it’s romantic and special, is far from easy. It takes commitment, time, hard work, and passion to make a living off of the land, but Ryan and Caroline have made it happen. It’s become one of my favorite places to be, thanks to a combination of friends (who are really family), their comfortable home, and the ever-changing and beautiful land on which they live.
Each time I leave Four Elements Farm, I feel inspired. The daily routine there is a good example of how we all should be living: they grow much of the food they eat, reuse and recycle as much as they can, compost anything compostable to go back into the earth, avoid any products damaging to themselves or the land, and generally live a mindful life. These guys truly walk the talk in everyday life and in business, and it’s pretty awesome to see their 4-year old daughter (and newborn baby) being raised with the same simple yet vital values.
One of my favorite things about time on the farm is the food. In the morning, the kids run down to the chicken coop to see what breakfast bounty the hens have provided. I’m always amazed at how scrumptious fresh eggs are! When mealtimes approach, the menu is dictated by what’s currently growing in the big garden. I love the opportunity to stroll through the rows of veggies, watching bees buzz among the different flowers that share the soil, munching here and there on whatever looks tasty. Each winter, we get big boxes full of Satsuma tangerines delivered to our snowy home in Park City, and the groves of citrus trees are heavy with vibrant mandarin oranges this time of year.
There are happy fields of calendula, a stunning orangey-yellow flower that is periodically harvested and dried in the greenhouse. Our friends own an organic skin care company called Elemental Herbs, and the dried calendula is used in all of the yummy lip balms and my favorite all-purpose salve (All Good Goop). The amazing farm managers have increased the calendula production enough to sell big bags of it to other companies seeking organically grown ingredients. And look how gorgeous it is as it grows!
The purpose of this trip wasn’t just to visit friends; John serves as an advisor on the company’s board. On Friday, the Elemental Herbs team and board had a day-long meeting. That gave me the opportunity to spend time with my sweet friend, Allison, and the little ones. We played pirates in Morro Bay, chilled in the hot tub, relaxed at the farm, and baked a tasty nectarine-blackberry crumble with thyme from the garden. When the crew returned from their meetings, our hosts put together a fantastic feast of local fresh-caught salmon with farm-fresh salad and roasted potatoes. I love a table overflowing with laughing friends, big wines, and the best food there is.
On Saturday, Four Elements Farm put on a fundraiser called Farm Fest. As demonstrated during Caroline’s 40th birthday celebration in Bear Valley, these guys know how to put together a party- and what fun to participate in some of the preparation! While the boys went surfing, the girls and I helped with making big vats of mandarin-infused water (straight from the tree) and flower arrangements (straight from the garden). I wish every morning could begin by wandering around a bountiful garden and picking flowers! The event was held at a funky space down the hill from the farm. There was an extensive silent auction, incredible food from the vegan Shine Café, music by three bands, face-painting and henna tattoos, a fun kids’ area, and plenty to drink. I didn’t leave the party without twirling to a few tunes. The evening ended with a crew of folks sipping beer back up at the farm, eating late-night macaroni and cheese and howling at the moon as it rose over the hill. So much fun.
On Sunday, after a smaller morning dance party and group harvest of some calendula, Ryan brought John and I down to the beach at Morro Bay so I could dip my toes in the sand and sea before flying home to the mountains. The rock was hidden by fog but it was gorgeous nonetheless. I couldn’t contain my beach-comber tendencies and toted home a pocketful of sand dollars- my mementos of another visit to a truly magical place.
It was a short trip, but we knew that the rest of our June would be full and Cholula was anxiously awaiting our return. I left the farm feeling the way I do each time I leave- refreshed, inspired, sad to go, and wondering how long until I’ll be back.