Posts Tagged ‘Northern Sierra’

Living The Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences

March 18th, 2016

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.”)

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

~ Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Fall Maples, Aspens, Black Oaks and Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Fall Maples, Aspens, Apple Trees, Black Oaks and Last Sun on Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Scene when I arrived home from the #Heartland. (To see large click on image)

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked to interview her about her locally popular organic gardening, homemade preserves and all natural cuisine. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living, their low impact lifestyle and long-term sustainability way before the word “sustainability” existed or the philosophy became a trend.

While the tape recorder ran, my mother joyfully began to answer my questions about more than 56 years of vegetable gardening, flower cultivation, ornamental breeding, gardening for butterflies and birds, natural pest control, fruit tree pruning, grafting and much more.

Unfortunately, we only made one tape. She died suddenly while I was 3,000 miles away on the East Coast before the interviews could continue. The afternoon after that fated first taping, she handed me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book and look at it for moment, put it in my hands with gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

The Nearings and their methods as professed in Living the Good Life, spiritually led and inspired the 1950s “Back to the Land” movement. The Hydes were at the early edge of this movement, leaving the Bay Area in 1950 to settle first in Indian Valley among the remote mountains of the Northern Sierra, then on a rocky flat bench of land on a branch of the Feather River Canyon, looking down on Indian Creek and up at Grizzly Ridge towering more than 4,000 feet straight up above the house they carved out of the wilderness.

This series of blog posts examines how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”  Part One serves as an introduction, citing sections of the book and how the Hydes applied them. Part Two reviews Ardis and Philip Hyde’s respective childhoods and how their influences brought them together and eventually to their own land in the country. In the third episode of “Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde” I reflected on the changing seasons and passing years as their dream home and their way of life continue here. Part four of Living the Good Life, came from my interviews of Dad about defeated attempts to establish a home in Carmel near the photography market as he and my mother were advised to do by his mentors and friends Ansel Adams, David Brower and others. Failure in Carmel surprisingly took them overseas to Morocco in Northern Africa and eventually back to California where they built their dream home in the Sierra. More on Morocco in future articles and blog posts.

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

Before continuing the more or less chronological story of the Hyde’s “Living The Good Life” dream with the construction of their home to include passive solar and other green or passive energy features in Part Six of this series, in this Part Five I will share how my mother’s ancestors helped found part of Sacramento and through their ranch contribute to the agrarian lore of the Great Central Valley. My mother orchestrated at least a start in agricultural knowledge during my childhood.

My father, born and raised in San Francisco, sought out nature all over the Bay Area. His father was an artist, draftsman and furniture designer and maker who also loved nature and loved the Sierra. He descended from a long line of schoolteachers. For more on my grandfather Leland Hyde and Dad’s other early influences, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4.”

In contrast my mother’s ancestors were early pioneer families of the California Central Valley. My mother grew up in the greater Sacramento area, spending most of her childhood in the rural outskirts away from the town that is now downtown Sacramento. My mother’s maiden name was King. Ardis King Hyde’s father, Clinton Samuel King, Jr. grew up on the King ranch outside Sacramento. Mom’s mother, Elsie Van Maren King grew up on the Van Maren Ranch. The King’s sold their ranch when my mother was too young to remember. However, my entire life, until my mother passed on, she talked about her vivid memories of the Van Maren Ranch.

The Van Maren Ranch was located in the part of Sacramento that is now called Citrus Heights. The Van Marens were one of Citrus Heights founding families. Van Maren Boulevard was named after the family. The main ranch house, roughly in the center of the 1,000-acre ranch, stood on a hill that has now been removed where a shopping mall now sprawls.

One Van Maren family myth had it that during the Great Depression, my great grandfather Nicholas Van Maren exclaimed one day in exasperation that his greenbacks were worth so little that he might as well pave the lane into the ranch house with them.

“I’ll call it my Greenback Lane,” he cried out. From then on the family and their friends called the road Greenback Lane. This was how the familiar Citrus Heights thoroughfare received its name.

The main crops on the Van Maren Ranch were wheat, oats and barley, with a secondary production of grapes, almonds, apples and olives. There were also a number of milk cows, horses, chickens, goats, lambs and pigs to supply the family pantry. My grandmother Elsie had three sisters and no brothers. The four girls grew up doing the farm chores that in those days were usually done by boys, in addition to the household chores as well. My grandmother was a superb cook, who could easily feed a few dozen people. My mother, who had three brothers and no sisters, as the only girl in her generation, was constantly in the kitchen with her mother. Some of my mother’s best recipes were handed down from generation to generation.

My mom remembered trips out from the suburbs to the rural area that is now Citrus Heights to the Van Maren Ranch on weekends one or two times a month. She learned to ride a horse on the ranch as a little girl, milked cows and helped out with all of the tasks on the ranch that her mother had grown up doing. Mom loved visits to the ranch and did not mind pitching in and working with her grandfather around the ranch and grandmother in the kitchen. Mom was quite capable and hard working, even as a child. Her grandparents in turn enjoyed the companionship and help of their eager, inquisitive suburban granddaughter each time she visited. She remembered hauling water from the hand-dug well to the house by bucket the old-fashioned way and making everything in the kitchen by hand.

Both my mother and grandmother were tough as nails. They could out work and out rough-and-tumble any boy or man their whole lives. Part of what attracted Dad to Mom years later was how comfortable and fearless she was in the outdoors, yet how she also carried herself with grace indoors.

Besides being an artist in the kitchen, my mother was what gardeners call a “green thumb.” She could make flowers grow from rocks, which is essentially what she did for close to 60 years at our home in the Sierra Nevada. She had not had her hands in the soil much at all though for many years when my parents finally bought the property in December 1955.

Soon after, Mom and Dad walked the property with their friends Cornell and Pat Kurtz from nearby Lake Almanor, who also were accompanied by their four-year-old daughter Kit. A tangle of branches, decimated small trees and bulldozed piles of dirt and rock, the house site had been a logging staging area. Not much dirt mixed in with the Grizzly Formation igneous andesite rock. Indian Creek over geological time cut down through a giant rockslide that came down off of Grizzly Ridge and dammed up the creek. The bench a few hundred yards above the present riverbed consisted mainly of angular fracturing Grizzly Formation rock with some dirt in between to further wedge in the rock and make it hard to move.

This was more than 15 years before the publishing of Dad’s renowned book, Slickrock with Edward Abbey, but Dad and Mom had traveled much in the Southwest where the name “Slickrock” was common as were other names with “rock” in them such as “Smooth Rock” or “Balanced Rock.” For more about Slickrock see the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”

Recently Pat Kurtz described that she and Cornell had visited the Hydes in 1956 while they were still living in one of the neighbor, Bill Burford’s houses, before Mom and Dad started building our home in 1957.

“I remember picking up the sharp, pointy rocks on your land,” Kit Kurtz added. “The rocks I were used to at Lake Almanor were rounded. I was already thinking, ‘this is rough rock.’” While showing the Kurtzes the land, Dad mentioned that they could not think of a name for the place.

“Your Dad looked down at Kit,” Pat Kurtz said. “He asked, ‘What do you think?’ and Kit said, ‘Rough Rock.’” Dad and Mom looked at each other and at Kit with smiles of acknowledgement and agreement.

“That’s it,”Dad said. “That’s the name.” Our home has been Rough Rock ever since. I will say with great assurance that to this day it lives up to its name in spades, or despite and intensely in spite of spades, or any other digging implement.

Dad even had to blast or chip a few giant rocks. Tons more he removed to pour the foundation. The rocks taken out of the trenches for the foundation were distributed along the hillside to make terraces. My parents filled in behind them to build the soil for a garden. I was not born until 1965, but the pickup truck hauling program was far from over when I got old enough to wield a shovel or pitchfork. I remember a childhood filled with trips to nearby ranches and farms to clear manure, used hay or combinations of the two out of horse stalls. We made those trips in an old 1952 Chevy Pickup we called the Covered Wagon when it still had a corrugated steel camper shell-like canopy on the back. For more on the adventures of Covered Wagon all over the West see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.” We also hauled dirt, sand, grass clippings, straw, wood chips and just about anything else that would make soil. I will write more about the gardens and gardening in future blog posts.

Besides being a laborer and off and on participant in Mom’s gardening efforts, thanks to my mother I was exposed to other agrarian influences. As a very small boy, probably around age three, my mother took me to a nearby dairy farm, introduced me to the farmer and to his dairy cows up close. Mom and I watched while the farmer milked his cows. We tasted the milk and I even took a turn at milking. When I was young we had milk delivered by a milk truck as part of a regular milk route. Later, I would go with my mother to pick up whole milk directly from the dairy farms that sold it. Mom skimmed the cream off the top and used it to make butter or to whip cream. We also made homemade ice cream from local whole milk.

My mother raised me on unpasteurized milk. I lived a highly active, sports-filled life and never broke a bone until I was in my 40s far away from my childhood home. I have never had any allergy problems either. A substantial body of scientific evidence links pasteurization, hormone supplementation and genetic modification of milk and dairy cows to food and pollen allergies.

My mother and my mother’s brother, Nick King, taught me how to care for, prune and organically fertilize our apple trees. For more on my uncle’s nursery, apple farm and beekeeping, see the blog post, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial.” Every year Dad and I helped Mom pick apples in our mini orchard of three trees. Mom tried many other types of fruit trees, but few of them bore much fruit in our mountain climate and elevation of 3600 feet above sea level. Just before she passed on in 2002, Mom planted a plum tree in front of the house that just started bearing fruit four years ago. It produced a heavy limb-bending crop of plums one year, but unfortunately the raccoons ate most of them.

Another agricultural, small farm activity Mom instigated at Rough Rock when I was a kid was raising chickens. They were bantam hens named Henny Penny and Peg Leg. They laid a slightly smaller egg than most chickens, but they each produced one to three a day, which was all we needed. Dad built them a chicken wire cage inside our garden shed. They would go in at night and out during the day. I fed them around the same time each day as I fed Pad, our German Shorthaired Pointer dog.

Pad was our primary domesticated animal. Pat Kurtz originally found her for us and named her P. – A. – D. after Philip, Ardis and David. The Kurtzes had a long line of their own German Shorthaired Pointers for many years. Pad would stay with them when we traveled. Pad was also good with the chickens. She hardly even went near them. She ignored them with disdain and distaste. We never knew why. After a few years Peg was taken out one day by what must have been a raccoon, or possibly a Bobcat or even Mountain Lion. All we found were a few feathers. Penny lasted a few months longer before suffering a similar fate.

I am grateful to my mother for introducing me in small ways to farming and ranching. While I did not grow up on an actual working farm or ranch, I had at least enough taste of it to understand what the lifestyle was like and what producing your own food is like. Farming is hard, but highly rewarding work.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living the Good Life 6.”)

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

December 29th, 2015

Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog has once again put together his blog project for hundreds of photoblogs to show a selection of photographs from the year. Last year I labeled my review blog post, “Best Photographs of 2014.” For that year, “Best” fairly described my picks because I did review every image in each genre and ran them off against each other to select what were best in my opinion. However, “Best” does not always apply to images that you choose yourself. Perhaps a stock agency or a magazine or a gallery would choose “better” images than you would yourself. Whether it is a stock agency, magazine or gallery doing the choosing, may be more the point. Each of these uses would chose different images that would be “best” in its particular situation. Different uses demand a different selection.

In a year like 2015 where I approached 10,000 total exposures, there may be several “10 best Photographs,” lurking within the 10,000 made, depending on the project and purpose. Therefore, this year I have called these “My Favorites.” Early in 2015 I gathered more images of the Northern Sierra, specifically Eastern Plumas County, to round out my Sierra Portfolio that will split into a Northern and Southern Sierra Portfolio as I begin to assemble portfolios and build a new website for my own photography. Currently I have just two portfolios on PhilipHyde.com after the 25 Image Portfolios of my father’s well-known photography that influenced more than one generation of landscape photographers.

My old friend Topher called me to announce he would marry Kori on the Blue Moon at the end of July on the white sandy shores of Lake Michigan at Meinert Park Beach. I decided to drive up to the West Coast of Michigan for the wedding and continue to photograph barns around the Midwest as I had started to do in Northern California. Every country is only as strong as its heart. I traveled to the heartland to take our pulse as a country and to photograph barns, farms and the dying small farm culture that is leaving small towns heartless across the land. Industrial cities are also in ruin in the midwest, but besides ruin and decay, hope, rebirth and rebuilding are also evident across our agrarian and rust belted center. My trip filled up with obstacles and small and large disasters, to the point where “A Drive Through the Heartland” makes a good travel narrative, currently in progress, as well as a series of informational blog posts about various sections of my trip or stories I discovered along the way. As soon as I have one draft of my travel journal, I will get back to directly working on my book about my father’s life and work in conservation photography of our national parks and wilderness.

Near the end of the year back home in California I photographed more landscapes for my Portfolio One and other portfolios, as well as more historical barns and round barns to upgrade my California Barns Portfolio to be revealed in 2016 with my new website. In 2016, I plan to take the emphasis off of making photographs and put it on marketing them more.

Misty Sunrise, Millpond, Graeagle, California by David Leland Hyde.

Misty Sunrise, Millpond, Graeagle, Eastern Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. Photographed this sunrise on the way to the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, but got caught here a bit too long and missed the best light up at Lakes Basin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. H. Day Barn From North, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan West Coast by David Leland Hyde.

D. H. Day Barn From North, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan West Coast by David Leland Hyde. Most people photograph this barn from the south or from the southwest near the national park service road. It varied from pouring to steady rain. I wore my rain gear and managed to keep my camera dry long enough to walk all the way around the field to make images from all sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa by David Leland Hyde.

Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa by David Leland Hyde. This barn is usually hard to find, but fortunately I asked at just the right building, when I first arrived in town. I made it to the barn in short time. The owner even drove up near the end of my photography session, just in time to give me publishing permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Cowgirls, Harlan Ranch, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Three Cowgirls, Harlan Ranch, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. I was happily photographing the Harlan Ranch Barn from the road, when two young cowpersons who had been riding a horse in a nearby corral approached me and asked if I would photograph them. Their mother nearby saw more or less what was going on. I made close to 20 frames of the girls, who also recruited their friend to total three cowgirls in most of the photographs. Talking with their mother afterwards, she said she liked the photographs and the whole idea as it kept the girls entertained for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Moment In Hansen Wedding Ceremony, Lake Michigan, Meinert Park Beach, West Coast of Michigan by David Leland Hyde.

Moving Moment In Hansen Wedding Ceremony, Lake Michigan, Meinert Park Beach, West Coast of Michigan by David Leland Hyde. The wedding photographer was also present and doing a great job getting the “money shots” of the main players in the wedding. I meanwhile focused on either the whole wedding party and audience, or the whole scene including the setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs, Farm Hand, Horse, Overlees Farm Near Franklin, Nebraska by David Leland Hyde.

Dogs, Farm Hand, Horse, Overlees Farm Near Franklin, Nebraska by David Leland Hyde. During my entire 10,000 mile, 14 Midwest State journey, I worked to incorporate not just picturesque barns, but the land, people, animals, equipment and overall culture of small farms and dairies. This was one of my better successes with the surrounding culture, which seemed to come and go out of my images depending on how much I focused on getting more than just the barns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children on Shore of Midsummer Pond Near Oberlin, Ohio by David Leland Hyde. At one farm, the lady at the house said I could photograph the barn, even though she was not the owner. She went back in the house and left me, a complete stranger, with her children. They followed me around while I tried to photograph the barn. At first the kids were a distraction, but then I just told them to go ahead and play between the barn and camera, which produced a number of great images. With no encouragement at all from me, they led me down by their favorite ponds and played while I made a few more images of them and the ponds. After about 45 minutes, I walked back by the house and the woman waved from inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amish Teenage Brothers and Horse Cart Near Holton, Michigan by David Leland Hyde.

Amish Teenage Brothers and Horse Cart Near Holton, Michigan by David Leland Hyde. Amish people do not pose, nor will they give permission to photograph them if they are asked for it. However, if they happen to be passing by and you capture them going about their regular routine as part of another photograph, they do not object. These boys with whom I exchanged names upon meeting them, were all under 18 except for the oldest. I mentioned what I had learned about photographing Amish. They said they could pose if they wanted to and that it was up to each person to interpret their faith in that regard. While they drove by, I photographed and made a number of good images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near North Fork Feather River, Chester, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near North Fork Feather River, Chester, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. I drove to Lake Almanor four different days and stayed into the evening waiting for a good sunset, but this one from the first evening after the Feather River Land Trust day tours, turned out better than any from subsequent nights. The Feather River Land Trust used this photograph of Olsen Barn in their campaign to acquire the land and begin to restore the barn. The FRLT completed the land purchase transaction in October and by November we had the first meeting for a stewardship committee to research how best to restore the barn. I am researching the pros and cons of being on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barn Skeletons in Soybean Field Near Oslo, Minnesota by David Leland Hyde.

Barn Skeletons in Soybean Field Near Oslo, Minnesota by David Leland Hyde. I was on my way off the main US Highway toward another historic barn when I looked back and saw these barn remnants dappled by late sun through the trees. I made a number of exposures at different focal lengths, but chose this one as my favorite as it includes all three barns and some of the setting, but also gives a sense of the immense size of the large barn.

Stage From Balcony, Historic Eastown Theater, Detroit, Michigan by David Leland Hyde. Alas, the iconic theater is no more. It was demolished this year. My photograph may become historically significant someday, especially if I am one of the few to make prints.

Stage From Balcony, Historic Eastown Theater, Detroit, Michigan by David Leland Hyde. Alas, the iconic theater is no more. It was demolished this year. My photograph may become historically significant someday, especially if I am one of the few to make prints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hole Broken in Wall, Screw and Bolt Factory, Gary, Indiana by David Leland Hyde.

Hole Broken in Wall, Screw and Bolt Factory, Gary, Indiana by David Leland Hyde. I do quite a bit of street photography on the West Coast. I have always wanted to photograph the ruins of the Midwest and Eastern Rust Belt. Gary, Indiana was one of Lake Michigan’s thriving industrial centers for many decades, but has fallen into disrepair with loss of over half of its peak population at a rate exceeding 22 percent per decade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychadelic Wall Mural, Chicago, Illinois by David Leland Hyde.

Psychadelic Wall Mural, Chicago, Illinois by David Leland Hyde. Driving past this wall along an elevated roadway in Chicago, all that meets the eye are murals as far as you can see. This one caught my eye with the bright variety of colors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn Lee Opening the Door to Urban Renewal Through Art at Artist Village, Detroit by David Leland Hyde.

Shawn Lee Opening the Door to Urban Renewal Through Art at Artist Village, Detroit by David Leland Hyde. Shawn Lee said the ruins of Detroit are old news and overblown by mainstream media. He said the relevant story now is the rebuilding of Detroit. He took me to see downtown gentrification and thriving upscale neighborhoods, but showed me recovering middle-class neighborhoods too. Artist Village is one place that encourages artists occupying low rent studios and helping to re-establish neighborhoods. Recovery is evident on other fronts as well. All over Detroit, neighborhood gardens are helping to rebuild communities and economically reclaim the city street by street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing Team Practice, Stanford Red Barn Equestrian Center, Stanford, California by David Leland Hyde.

Racing Team Practice, Stanford Red Barn Equestrian Center, Stanford, California by David Leland Hyde. Meanwhile, with the wealth of dot.com startups and new innovations in technology, the Stanford area will continue to grow richer for a long time to come, possibly until the land goes under the ocean due to climate change.