Posts Tagged ‘green thumb’

Ardis Hyde’s Garden 2: Pecos Paradise

March 9th, 2021

Ardis Hyde’s Garden Two

Feature Blog Post

My Garden Paradise in Pecos, New Mexico

The End of My World and a New Home North of Santa Fe

(See also, “Ardis Hyde’s Garden 1: Digging Stumps, Beginner’s Luck and Mom’s Green Thumb.”)

Wheelbarrow, Adobe Wall, Fall, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. (Click to see large.)

In 1992, I left Los Angeles in the midst of the Rodney King Riots. Fires and looting had surrounded my home, devastated my neighborhood in West L.A. and left me thinking it was the end of civilization, as we knew it. Perhaps it was the beginning of the end. Time will tell.

It was certainly the end of my world. My business was falling apart because I was spending more time meditating in the lush gardens outside my apartment in the backyard of an old Crescent Heights mansion. That garden, besides its beauty, was quiet and a peaceful sanctuary away from the gritty, gray and violent city weighing on my psyche every day.

I moved to the desert in Cuyamungue north of Santa Fe between the Pojoaque and Tesuque Indian Reservations. My home was a basement apartment below the house of the Martinez family. The family had lived on that land for over 400 years, like many of the direct descendants from the Spaniards who had originally settled Northern New Mexico. I could walk out my own entrance and look up at the giant old cottonwoods along the arroyo that had stood there for centuries just like the family. In back of the house, relatives of my landlord had cornfields, squash and Chile, the staples of their culture, partly adopted from the Native Americans.

I took long walks in the desert, wrote a lot in my journal and drove back and forth to work. Living in the country again was like coming home for me. I talked to my parents a lot on the phone and they were very happy I had gotten out of L.A., the rat race and the money oriented life I had been living. I lived in Cuyamungue for over a year, but decided I needed to move into town to be closer to the two waiter jobs I had taken to try to pay off some of my debt and stay afloat after my California business collapsed. Living in town was a great time socially, but I longed for another place in the country with solitude, the night stars overhead and perhaps even with a place I could grow a garden.

A Bottomland Paradise Between Glorieta and Pecos Near the Anasazi

Eventually, by late 1994, I found the ideal place. It was a single wide 1953 mobile home out of town to the east between the small villages of Glorieta and Pecos. It had a large yard and a shop added on in the back. There were a number of friendly neighbors who lived in much newer mobile homes and stick houses nearby. This spot was also right next to wild lands and as I found out later, less than a mile from an ancient Native American burial ground that the locals said was from the days of the Ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi. This was certainly not far-fetched because there were other well-known Anasazi sites in the area.

Less than 10 miles away, the largest documented sites lie within the Pecos National Historic Park. The park, located between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Glorieta Mesa, not far from Glorieta Pass, contains the remains of ancient pithouses dating to 800 A.D., a large Ancestral Puebloan ruin circa 1300 A.D., and remnants of a Spanish Franciscan mission church from 1600 A.D. The rich culture of Pecos National Historic Park started with Pre-Anasazi nomad hunter-gatherers and Paleoindians who roamed the Pecos Valley and traded with the Plains Indians going back as far as 11,500 B.C. The first settlements and planting of corn, beans and squash began in 3500 B.C. After the Spanish conquered the pueblos in the 1600s, lost control of the region in the first American Revolution called the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, they forcefully retook the pueblos and increased in power as the pueblos declined throughout the 1700s. The region became part of Mexico in 1821 when the Mexicans won independence from Spain. The legendary Santa Fe Trail opened that same year, passing right through what is today the Pecos National Historic Park. The Santa Fe Trail brought an influx of settlers and eventually led to New Mexico being established as a US Territory during the Mexican-American War in 1846.

Surrounded by Ancient Farmland and Depictions of Kokopelli

Just three miles to the other side of my new place toward Santa Fe, in 1862, the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass, also called the “Gettysburg of the West,” left thousands of bodies and artifacts buried as well. The many historical conflicts made for a colorful backdrop and counterpoint to the agrarian legacy of the place. By the time I arrived on the scene, a peaceful, quiet way of life had won out, but the woods and meadows were full of hidden secrets and spiritual disturbances. From the first night I slept in my new home, I had wild, vivid dreams of people and events completely foreign to my own life. Nonetheless, I always slept very soundly and always felt safe and very happy in my tiny paradise next to Glorieta Creek.

The original builder of the shop in the back had been a metal worker. He left me a number of welded metal surprises hidden either in the grass, behind other junk or under the mobile home floor, which I discovered over time around the place. He had apparently been into Kokopelli, as the owners after him who at first rented and then sold me the place, told me that the various representations of the magic flute player I found had been there when they arrived.

Back when the farming Ancient Puebloan natives began to build structures above ground, about 1,000 years ago, they also developed a layered system of deities that helped protect them and ensure prosperous harvests. The living descendents of the Anasazi, who live along the Rio Grande River between Albuquerque and Taos and in the Hopi Villages in Arizona, to this day make offerings and pay homage to various Kachina spirits. Kokopelli, known as the hunchback flute player, is the most well-known Kachina. Kokopelli is a fertility god, who plays his flute to bring rain, fertilize crops and make sure the women of the tribe bear new babies. Kokopelli is ubiquitous on the contemporary Southwest tourist scene in fine art, kitsch art and in trinkets and souvenirs.

I often listened to Native American flute music. I noticed Kokopelli showed up often in my life, ever since I had moved to New Mexico. My new landlords, if my memory is correct, said the hunchbacked deity influenced them. They conceived three children while living in the mobile home.

Rent-to-Own Paradise, a Visit From the Rain Gods and Soulmate Dreams

They offered me the old mobile home rent-to-own. I started out making payments, but eventually bought it outright. Having a shop again, like my home here in California where I grew up, made me very happy. Some of the best days of my life I spent there in Pecos.

One time when my favorite uncle, Nick King, came to visit, we explored the Anasazi burial ground for the first time. For more about my uncle go to, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960’s Activist Nicholas King.” We could see where the graves were, but not long after we arrived on the burial site, what little blue sky we could see turned to clouds and got darker. Within 15 minutes of arriving where we could see the graves, the clouds opened up and deluged us with rain. Soaking wet, but laughing and running back through the woods, we retreated into my kitchen to dry off and sip hot chocolate. Right after we got home, the sun came back out and the air was warm and fresh in my garden.

My girlfriend and I used to stay toasty warm at night in the back bedroom with many blankets and the upright propane heater. However, despite the cozy visits from her, she and I were on the way out when I moved out there. As soon as we broke up, another beautiful lady came into my life. We were having a blast and it was going really well when one of my best platonic friends called me and said she had a dream about us being together. She had awakened feeling she needed to call me and suggest we try romance. I explained that I was dating someone else, but that we could get together and talk. We had both been in love with each other since we met, but had never gotten together because the whole time we had known each other, one or the other of us had been in a relationship with someone else. We used to go out to eat at our mutually favorite Italian Restaurant in Santa Fe and talk for hours. When we got together to discuss it, I was done for. I agreed to get out of the other situation to give love a shot with her. I told her I already loved her. She said, “Ditto,” referring to the film Ghost. We soon after got engaged and came very close to marrying. However, the positive vibe went out of the love affair as soon as I moved away from Pecos. The relationship disintegrated shortly after I sold the place in 1996. I have never married. That was the one time I was engaged.

A Painter of Kivas Who Grew Giant Sunflowers and Fed a Community

Michael Kaczor, my neighbor a few miles to the east, closer to the town center of Pecos, had a gigantic garden. He was a painter. He sketched and painted the pueblos, particularly their meeting houses, kivas, pots and Kokopelli. His extra-large yard full of plants of all kinds, edible and ornamental, generated more garden produce than I had ever seen. Sunflowers 15 feet tall surrounded his yard. He had tons of zucchini, many of them oversize and a few up to two feet long. His strawberry plants bore berries as big as nectarines.

Kaczor himself said that he fed a lot of people out of that garden. He gave food to neighbors, relatives and friends in Pecos and Glorieta, not to mention areas closer to Santa Fe and beyond. He gave away hundreds of pounds of vegetables like peas, corn, lettuce, turnips, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots, potatoes onions and lots of spices like Cilantro, oregano, mint, sage, rosemary and dill. Just the community building value alone made me want to plant my own plot, but more than anything, I am drawn to gardening naturally. I feel like all is right in the world when I am doing it.

Besides a natural attraction, I like gardening because I get more exercise cultivating soil, building compost, planting, watering, weeding and scavenging and buying plants, pots and other supplies. When I have a garden my digestion is better and my energy levels are higher due to eating more vegetables. With produce getting ripe regularly, I get more creative in planning healthy meals. Just being in the garden, whether working or just sitting, I feel at peace. Needless to say, it was easy for Kaczor to talk me into planting my own plot, even though most of this paragraph describes values I discovered after doing it more as an adult, I did remember a lot of it from childhood too. The main difference now was that there were no trees or stumps to remove and the soil needed no manure or any other supplement. My bottomland soil was as fertile as any possible and at least six feet deep, judging by one section of the bank along the creek.

Sunshine, Good Advice, Rich Soil and a Charmed Beginning

Other major factors improved the odds for success as well. We had an abundance of sunshine at that latitude in “The Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico’s official nickname. The Southwest sun provided a long growing season without too much summer heat due to the 6,500’ elevation.

Kaczor taught me a number of other key gardening secrets and tricks that I will go into in posts to come in this series. One major secret that may seem minor at first, Michael gave me when I asked if he knew anyone that had a Rototiller. He said he did not use a Rototiller. He suggested I do like him and in the fall collect a lot of plain brown corrugated cardboard with no lettering or other ink on it. In the winter you then put this cardboard down on the ground, smoothing it out all across the leveled rows in the whole area you plan to plant the following spring. If you want, you can even leave carrots, onions and other root crops under the cardboard. They will keep growing and stay fresh and ready to eat all winter. In the spring you can pull back the cardboard and you will not need to add as many beneficial bugs either. You will have earthworms and organic activity under the cardboard. You may get a few earwigs, sow bugs or potato bugs that you can easily squish or deport, but there will also be lots of earthworms and other beneficial insects.

Speaking of insects, Kaczor also showed me the best natural organic pest control for any garden: just plant Marigolds around the whole circumference of your plot. This will keep most destructive garden pests out most of the time. There are exceptions I learned later and will share in future posts. Meanwhile, when I pulled back the cardboard, sure enough. The ground was soft and fertile. I planted carrots, onions, garlic and radishes in mid April. During the last week of April, I planted broccoli and spinach. The first week of May I put in beans, summer squash, zucchini, corn, pumpkins, spinach, cucumbers and a few other items I don’t remember. Everything took off fast and dank. The sunflowers I planted in a long row all along my mobile home grew like mad and soon were taller than the roof. It was an epic summer on so many levels. The mountains and deserts called to be hiked and written about, while the garden always grounded my adventures. The greenery and abundance pulled people in to sit and enjoy my little piece of paradise. I was truly blessed.

What I learned that summer about that garden in that centuries old farming place and about gardening in general, due to beginner’s luck, circumstances, location, hard work, good advice, and a little good medicine, has put me in good stead, good homestead that is, for the rest of my life. I planted where the natives had planted, lived where they lived, thrived where they thrived and even I felt at times lightly communicated in my mind with their dead and worshipped their gods. I like to think Kokopelli had an eye on my garden. I certainly had an eye out to learn about him and other such gods of the Southwest who had a tendency to appear and disappear easily and fly like most of the Kachinas.

Ardis Hyde’s Garden 1: Digging Stumps, Beginner’s Luck and Mom’s Green Thumb

November 5th, 2020

Ardis Hyde’s Garden One

Feature Blog Post

Gardening Background From the Sierra Nevada to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Back

What Ardis Hyde Left Behind

Fall Color, Japanese Maples and Other Ornamental Trees, Ardis Hyde’s Garden, 2017 by David Leland Hyde. (To view large click image.)

My mother, Ardis Hyde, was a self-trained naturalist, botanist, kindergarten teacher, neighborhood garden buying club organizer, Audubon birder, food preserver, cook and green thumb gardening enthusiast, teacher and networker.

She not only grew a bountiful vegetable garden every year, she and my father, pioneer conservation Photographer Philip Hyde, left to me here surrounding our home called Rough Rock, an ornamental tree and shrub garden including Forsythia, Butterfly Bushes, Lilac, Snowball and many others. Her a 120-foot-long rock-wall-edged raised bed flower garden still blooms every year from February to October. I also inherited her three plum trees, an apple orchard with four apple trees, a raspberry patch, parsley, sage, lavender, chives, rhubarb, Indian Rhubarb, oregano, a few volunteer strawberry plants, concord grapes, green grapes, a mountain stream fed lawn, and a garden shed full of garden tools, pots, peat moss, hummus, and other supplies. Now almost two decades after her passing, her Clematis bush still blooms bright white in the fall, followed by a dazzling array of fall leaf color displayed by Japanese Maples, Big Leaf Maples, several types of dogwood, aspens and of course the native California Black Oaks.

Growing Up Digging Out Stumps and Hauling Manure

When I was a boy starting at about age 11, one of my main jobs in her garden was to dig out stumps the old fashioned way by hand using a pick, shovel, mattock, various sizes of hoes, crowbars and often one or two Come-Alongs at the end just for good measure. Read more about various influence that got me started in gardening: Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.

My other garden job was to go to various ranches nearby in Indian Valley or American Valley and clean out horse stalls, or piles of old manure, hay, sand or dirt and shovel and pitchfork them into our old ‘52 Chevy pickup that Dad originally bought from Brett Weston. Read more about Mom and Dad’s road trips and adventures in our old Chevy truck before it was old in this blog series starting with Covered Wagon Journal 1.

When I was about 10, Mom helped me organize and plant my own little garden about seven feet square. I am still looking through Mom’s Home Logs to try to find her description of us making that garden together. I will update this post or write another in this series when I find it.

Beginner’s Luck in New Mexico With Help From Mom, a Good Neighbor and Kokopelli

After my own first garden, I continued to help Mom with her gardening, but never grew another plot myself until almost two decades later. In 1995 not far from my place near Pecos, New Mexico, my friend and neighbor Michael Kaczor, an expert gardener, had an impressive extra large yard full of plants of all kinds and more quality produce than I had ever seen. He had sunflowers 15 feet tall, zucchini two feet long and strawberry plants with berries nearly as big as apples. After watching him cultivate hundreds of pounds of produce a year, with his encouragement, I decided to try to raise my own harvest.

We had an abundance of sunshine at that latitude in “The Land of Enchantment.” With the Southwest sun as a given, many times Michael emphasized that soil was the most important factor in gardening success. One day he stopped by my place and after walking around my yard for about three minutes he said, “You have even better soil than I did before I started.” I was lucky to live about 100 feet from a small stream in a meadow. “You are right in the bottomland,” he exclaimed. “You really need to grow a garden here and see what happens.”

He taught me a number of other key gardening secrets and tricks that I will go into in posts to come in this series as I share more about that garden and why it was an example of massive beginner’s luck, mainly due to circumstances, location, hard work, good advice, a little luck and the good medicine brought to me by living where the natives had lived and thrived. Not to mention that there was an ancient, unmarked Native American, possibly even Anasazi burial grounds several hundred yards away and the previous owner’s metal sculpture of the mythic humpbacked flute player fertility deity Kokopelli left on site.

From Butterflies to an Interview With Mom and a Caretaker’s Garden For My Father and Me in 2003

During that time I also consulted my mother often about various details of gardening. One time I was visiting my parents back home at Rough Rock in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of far Northeastern California and I got an idea to write an article about butterfly gardening, which was one of my mother’s specialties. She agreed to sit down with me and do an interview on tape about how to attract butterflies with various flowering plants. It turned out to be a delightful audio track of us discussing her favorite subject, but we wandered around over so many diverse subjects, I did not get enough about butterflies to write an article. She passed on only about six months later. I probably could have read up on butterfly gardening enough to at least write a short piece, but it all suddenly felt very personal and raw. Even though the article was a loss, the interview was one of my gains of a lifetime. It still inspires me as a delightful keepsake that I play from time to time to remember her by. Looking back, I wish I had made a whole cabinet full of tapes of her. Read more about how my parents were part of the 1950s Back to the Land Movement: Living the Good Life 2: From City to Mountain Paradise.

Between my mother’s talents and skills and those from New Mexico, I longed to get back into horticulture again myself. However, it was not until 2003, when I moved back home to Rough Rock in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains to be the primary caregiver and cook for my father, that I had a chance to resurrect Ardis Hyde’s Garden. It took a lot of time and work, which took me away from the critical task of watching over my 80 plus year old Dad, who had lost his eyesight to Macular Degeneration not long before. He was pretty down after losing the two loves of his life: photography and mom. He kept saying he was ready to die and wanted to wander out into the woods to do so like the Native Americans used to do. However, he did manage to stick around for four years, which were the most challenging, yet rewarding years of my life. Raising a garden at the same time was difficult, but I’m glad I did it at least that one year because it was not until 17 years later, this spring in 2020 that I replanted the raised beds I had built in 2003. In upcoming blog posts in this series, I will share my latest gardening adventures with the idea of helping people learn and remember with me, not just about gardening, but also about putting food by, storing, preserving and rebuilding the rest of my parents’ system for food independence, health resilience, self-reliance and harmony with nature. For more on self-reliance, see the blog article, Living The Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons, Self-Reliance, Money and Freedom. The kind of skills largely forgotten or overlooked in our contemporary culture. Knowledge that we and the planet are in great need of now for survival and long-term abundance. For more on how to survive the next 20 years: Art, Earth and Ethics 1 – The Abuse of Nature and Our Future.

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 future blog posts this series, in this post, 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 future posts in this series. The next post, Part Six, covers the process of finding and choosing a place to put down roots and establish a modern homestead, “Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life.”)