Pickathon (8/5/11-8/7/11)

I first heard of Pickathon from listening to the Roadhouse over on KEXP. It’s a festival concert in Happy Valley, Oregon, held in on Pendarvis Farm. The line-up is mostly Americana roots acts, some more on the indie-rock end and some on the authentic twang end.

Mad and KO and I road-tripped from our happy Bay Area home to Happy Valley (with some stops at the awe-some Oregon dunes and Portland). The concert is held actually right outside of Portland, on a huge private farm. Although we knew it was camping, none of us really realized how much HIKING we would have to do (would I have brought four pairs of shoes? Probably not). There was some huffing and puffing as we got all over our stuff to a campsite.

Once we did, we got to explore the very cool kite-like tents over the main stages (seriously, half of my photos are of the tents). There were two main stages, with other scattered in barns and in the forest. The Woods Stage, located deep in the woods, was the best venue. There’s nothing like hearing a band playing good music with sunshine creeping through the trees.

Another awesome thing about Pickathon? The concert is totally sustainable. You could either bring your own plates and cutlery, or you could rent some for $10 (and keep the set for $5). The food was really tasty – I had a biscuit that knocked my socks off. I would say that there’s really no need to bring any camping gear as the prices are all pretty low. And unlike some concerts, water is free and plentiful.

So what about the music? I came away with some new bands that I loved. The Fruit Bats totally nailed it with fun indie-folk at the Woods Stage. The Pine Leaf Boys were right after, and I discovered zydeco is really, really fun live. Pokey Lafarge is just the right mix of kitsch and homage to “riverboat soul music.” Alela Diane‘s voice with her band, The Wild Divine, was just as gorgeous as on her albums. I fell asleep during Bill Callahan’s set, but his epic voice reached all the way to our tent.

All in all, a super-fun experience, and a welcome, low-key alternative to the festival scene.

Want more? 

Check out the Pickathon website to see about 2012. And look at my photos below!

Pickathon, main stage

Pokey Lafarge (8/6/11)

Sonny and the Sunsets (8/6/11)

Woods stage (8/6/11)

Fruitbats (8/6/11)

The Pine Leaf Boys (8/6/11)

Alela Diane and the Wild Divine (8/7/11)

Wye Oak (8/7/11)

Visit to Hidden Villa (Saturday 5/7)

On the farm

So OBVIOUSLY I am going to be a weekend farmer at the rate I keep visiting them. And by “weekend farmer” I mean “someone who mucks around in the dirt for about an hour and is slowly killing all her potted kitchen herbs.”

Still, in 2011, I’ve played with baby goats and made marmalade. I’ve even mucked a barn!

Last weekend, however, was off-duty for this seasoned hand. KO and I went to the distant hills of Los Altos, where our dear friend Soozbomb had accepted an apprenticeship. We citygirls went down strictly as visitors.

Walking in the woods

First off, Hidden Villa is HUGE. Much larger than Pie Ranch. There are several buildings for the education program, some for meetings and events, and one ramshackle White House where the interns live.

What does Hidden Villa do? Grow stuff and educate young folks about how to grow stuff. It’s a really awesome program, and has a great history too. From the farm’s site:

Hidden Villa was founded by Frank and Josephine Duveneck, who purchased the land in 1924 and offered it as a gathering place for discussion, reflection, and incubation of social reform. Over the following decades, the Duvenecks established the first Hostel on the Pacific Coast (1937), the first multiracial summer camp (1945), and Hidden Villa’s Environmental Education Program (1970). The Trust for Hidden Villa was established as a nonprofit in 1960


Although it was a bit cold, we got to have a tour in a golf cart! I got to eat fresh strawberries (only 1 or 2), harass some chickens, and take a hike with an awesome cat named Rosebud. (That evening there was an intern barbeque, during which Rosebub brought her own rat to the festivities!)

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I can’t wait to go down when the weather is warmer and maybe, y’know, help out a bit. I’m pretty great at it by now.


Oh hello


Something this way grows

Wee nest

Greenhouse cat

Want more?

Check out the Hidden Villa Calendar of events! If you’re in the area, consider their CSA!

Work day at Pie Ranch (Saturday, 4/16)

Mucking in the barn

This Saturday was definitely the first time I got typecast as a mucker.

So my brother and I had taken a trip down the coast to volunteer at Pie Ranch’s work day. (Pie Ranch is this awesome working farm in Pescadero, California that does educational programs and sustainable farming practices. I know them through an association with my local pie shop, Mission Pie).

All that muck


We arrived at the ranch and signed our waivers. As we were walking up the hill, a man poked his head out of a barn and said, “Is one of you AJ?” Seems like they were looking for some helpers to de-muck the barn, and had ID’ed my brother (probably not me, standing 5’2″, no matter how much I’d like to think so) as a good asset. Funnily enough, my brother WWOOFed last summer, and had had a whole month of mucking experience in a farm in Italy. So someone chose wisely!

Using a pitchfork to break up a year’s worth of straw, goat pee, poo, and mud was hard work. I got this mini blister within half an hour, and one day later, I am SORE. But it was immensely gratifying to assist with loading up three tractor-loads full of muck.

After the muck, we walked around the property. It was a gorgeous spring day, and the farm is beautiful. Old buildings from the original farm in the 1800s are still standing, as well as mobile chicken coops, friendly goats, and one very pregnant heifer.

Dulce de Leche, preggers heifer

Later we moved on to weeding strawberry plants. Fact: my meticulous nature is not at all useful while weeding. My brother almost completed a whole row while I was still toiling at the beginning.


We skipped out on the post-work day potluck (because all we had brought that day were Luna bars), but peeked in for the barn dance, where families jigged to a live band.

A really special day.


Want more?

Learn about Pie Ranch, or look for a local farm in your area at Local Harvest.

Confused by a chicken

Visit to the farm

Baby goats by a stream!

“How could this happen,” I whined recently. “I’m losing all my friends to nature.”

And it’s true; I’ve had three friends who dropped out of the “traditional” workforce and take up the land. Maybe it’s something in the water, or the air, or the food. I’d say it has more to do with the lighting, and the cubicles, and the Excel spreadsheets. Either way, it’s impossible to write about without rehashing a recent New York Times Style piece.

In the interest of maintaining a presence on the cultural bandwagon, I went to visit my homesteading friends to do some investigoogling.

Just kidding. I went to go play with baby goats.

J & A have adopted two goats, both about 3 months old. One was abandoned by her mother (Coca Cola), the other (A&W) was raised by her mom for a few weeks and then brought onto their farm. Naturally, it is A&W who is the neediest, the crier, the one who has become quite the lap goat and will wriggle into anyone sitting down in the vicinity.

I’m always staggered when we visit over how much work it takes to do things I take for granted. Hot water comes from solar paneled trays, heat from a little squat stove, and the toilet is compost.

We took a ramble Sunday morning and got to see the lay of their property. A lifetime renter, it must be immensely gratifying to be able to look and know all around you is yours. And there’s nothing quite like witnessing a baby goat scale the side of (an admittedly low) cliff. Because next time I see them, I probably won’t be so pleased if they crawl on my lap.

Want more?

I dunno, man, go find your own friends with a cabin.

Old truck

And now, a case for waste

The other day I was running errands, and stopped by my charming local library branch to pick up a few books on hold (best discovery ever—you can select books online from any one of the library’s branches, the book is delivered,  you get an email. It’s almost as easy as Netflix!).

That day, three pre-teen girls were in front of me in line. They were checking out stacks and stacks of manga; between the three, I would say that there were twenty-five books. You could just tell that the rest of their afternoon would be spent in unadulterated, unplanned, comic book bliss.

Seeing them reminded me of my own summers at that age. My mom, brother and I would go to the library, where I plop down in the YA section and read until it was time to decide which books I would check out (The maximum number of books my mom would allow as always equal to my age—she discovered that I needed limits at the library the way other kids need them with t.v. or videogames or the computer).

Once I got home, I would retreat to my room, where I would tear through all the books in record time. At that age, I barely lifted my eyes from my book at the dinner table, which never ceased to peeve my mom and dad.

But, oh, it was glorious literary gluttony, combined with the sense of endless freedom that summer afternoons used to bring. Watching those girls in the check-out line, I grew supremely jealous of their free time, that their afternoons were their own to waste.

These days it’s very hard to claim a Saturday or Sunday of your own to fritter away. Even if I choose to waste an afternoon on the couch, I am very conscious of time having passed. The most delightful those summers was that I had no idea where time went and didn’t care, for the summer seemed to drift endlessly on. And that’s something you don’t get back.

Staying green at work, Part I

I am surrounded by so much waste. Working in a big office building for a big corporation, you see so much misuse of resources. From abandoned print jobs to mounds of extra food ordered at meetings, it has started to repel me.

I understand that my fellow workers are busy, and that maybe it’s not everyone’s priority to cut down on their usage. It is a combination of laziness, lack of concern, and feeling like you are “owed” something by the company. When you pay the bill for paper or plastic spoons, I’m sure we all pay more attention to where the money goes.

My office, for example, has cut down on the number of times our personal trash got emptied. Citing environmental concerns, it now gets taken out every other day. The tragic flip side of this is that is actually created some job loss for the janitorial staff. Once I learned that, any sort of approval is tainted by some executive’s smug sense of accomplishment by painting job loss with an earth-friendly green.

ANYWAY. So now, I present to you: behavioral shifts that would make your working day slightly more sustainable: (more…)