Saturday, September 8, 2012

Name This Ranch!

After leaving Coast RV with our motorcoach in order, we headed to Fallbrook (sort of between LA and San Diego).  To get there, I had to drive on or by all the legendary LA freeways and streets I had heard about in movies, TV shows and rock 'n'roll music.  Mulholland Drive, Ventura Freeway, Highway 101, and others.  Of course, about all I got to see of them was their names because, believe me, my eyes were on the road and keeping track of five lanes of traffic, drivers all intent on getting where they were going, avoiding landing a whale on them, etc.  When I REALLY push it, I can get 63 mph out of the Terra Cetacean (you didn't think I would ever resort to that, did you?) but it is a rocking and reeling ride, not for the faint of heart.  The highways also made me think of my friend, Bill.  Born and raised in SoCal, he has regaled me with stories of surfing and fishing and all things water-related in his youth as a citizen of the Golden State.  I am glad he is now a Missoulian--it is easier to be his friend when he lives in the same town that I do.

Paul Varese and his wife Molly provided the Land Whale's most recent dock space.  Paul was waiting for us at a freeway interchange to lead us to his home and nascent permaculture farm.  Talk about service.  After guiding us into our resting space, he invited our crew down to a fire pit for a glass of wine and conversation even though it was already past 10:00 p.m.  Already I liked this guy!  Our Paul had plans to visit some farms and other sites the next day before making a presentation in the small city of Oceanside.  My plan was to snooze as much as possible because we had decided the best way to cross from San Diego to Phoenix was during the night time so I scheduled a day of relaxing and snoozing in preparation.
Just when I think I have met most of the nice people in the world, along come Molly and Paul.  They and their son, Julian,  have been on their spread for a little over a year and are in the process of converting it from  avocado orchards to something a little more permacultural-ly.

 As I lay dozing on my bunk in the Land Whale, Molly came down and introduced herself and invited me up to the house for lunch with her and her Mom. Molly is one of those creative people who has a fine eye for design and collecting interesting objects.  What's more, she is keeping goats on their place and developing a line of herb-based soaps.  (Later when it came time to put the goats back in their pen, she called out, "Time for a cookie!" and those goats came running, their soft hooves clicking on the driveway like little leather hammers.  Goat whisperer?  More like "Goat Hollerer"!)  She and her Mom were the warmest lunch companions I could imagine and before I knew it, a lot of my snooze time had happily disappeared.

Before we all left for Big Paul's presentation in Oceanside, our host, Paul, gave Eivind and me a tour of his property and the projects he had planned or had gotten underway.
Paul shows Eivind his terracing.
When I asked Paul the name of their place--I knew it had to have a name--he just laughed and said that was something they were working on.  The first name, "Rancho Juliano" in honor of their son, just didn't seem to make the statement they wanted.  Next came "Goat Hill Ranch" in honor of the goats they keep.  That one doesn't have the traction of a winner yet, so keep at it;  they will find the right name, or it will find them.


Goat Hill Ranch or Rancho Juliano or...?

One of the features of the place Paul showed us was this cement reservoir that had been installed long ago but which was no longer serviceable due to cracking and settling.  Paul recognizes that this is a perfectly good hole in the ground at the upper edge of his property and is mulling options including a small residence that will allow them to enjoy outstanding views and a place to get away from everything--except perhaps the goats who have already claimed the reservoir as their play ground.  Paul told us that the goats sometimes get in the cement pool and just run and run around it like those caged motorcycle daredevils.  Apparently that counts as fun for goats--no one has made a reality TV show of that, but there is still time.
Cement Reservoir/ Goat Playground
Paul and Molly have a lot to work with, but a long way to go.  I'd love to come back in a few years to see how their work has paid off for them.

Big Paul's talk was scheduled for the Oceanside Library.  Oceanside is a nice little town in which I felt immediately comfortable.  The Library, a modern building which is part of a larger municipal complex had clean lines, lovely public spaces and is something I hope the residents of Oceanside are proud of.  When we got there, we found that there were a host of signs to Paul's lecture room which made way-finding in a strange building easy (much of the organizing work for this talk was done by Diego Footer, one of Paul's many fans.  thanks, Diego!).  It's always hard to guess how many people will turn out on a Friday night to hear a talk on permaculture as an alternative to irrigation. In this part of California, it turns out a lot turn out.
Oceanside, California 

And, in the audience were Eivind and Paul and Molly.  What a great bunch!                                      

Eivind along with Paul and Molly

After the lecture was over, it was back to Paul and Molly's to board the Land Whale and make our crossing to Phoenix.  Paul and Jocelyn were understandably exhausted from a day of touring and speaking and headed for some rack time.  I kept Eivind awake just long enough to get me on the right highway and off we sped into the night.  Fortified by iced coffee, chocolate and cold pizza,I got us to our current docking station by around 7:00 a.m.  The relative peace and quite of fairly traffic-free highway provided me with some of the most enjoyable Land Whale riding I have experienced so far.  To keep myself amused, I thought of all my grade school and high school teachers and tried to remember classmates from those years.  I imagine all the things they have accomplished and achieved, and I wonder if they have ever taken a trip like this.


  1. Glad to hear you safely navigated your first night-time desert crossing, Captain Geoff. I hope you are sleeping the day away.

  2. Godspeed to you my friend, it looks like you have found your calling. Will look forward to the recap.

    1. Sometimes a calling is learning what NOT to do or be...

  3. Oooee, I can empathize with their moniker-laden struggles. They seem torn between finding a name for the place, a name that honors the offspringer, and a name that embodies their wittiness. I feel these different tugs.

    Perhaps the place will aid my decision ... or perhaps it will come out beforehand. I've been careful not to rush in either direction. But I wonder what you think of the farm title that are in the running:
    -Imagine Farms
    -Missoula Grain and Veggie Co.
    -The Organic Matters CSA

    Any of them jumping out at-cha? Sidenote: what would you name your space and how do you think you'd base that decision (on place, on imagination, a combination of the two, or something entirely different?)

  4. Sidenote of the sidenote: congrats to Big Paul for drawing such a huge crowd on a Friday!

  5. Naming a place is an indulgent, serious and personal undertaking [yes, I am looking at you, founder of Two Dot, Montana!]. I think the land and the vision of the founder/farmer should join in something that is meaningful, inspiring and descriptive. Like poetry. I know you know poets, Pete. How would a poet name a farm? In a talk I once gave on "How Young Poets Will Save the World" I observed how much better the world would be if all our policemen, politicians, doctors, FARMERS, etc. were poets, too. You got roots, land, leaves, fruit, water, grain and seeds to work with. A veritable cornucopia of images to work with! Git yer vision heart on, Pete, and indulge yourself in a little poetic naming!