It was one of those days you want to hold on to forever - the smell of fresh soil, laughter, hammers ringing on steel. Ole, our builder of many years, stood off to one side with a shadow of a smile (the Milt Jackson version) that expressed how damn good it felt to see a greenhouse rising with strong, much younger backs carrying the weight, bringing with them a world of new ideas. And there was this: with all the anger and disillusionment free floating around right now, there is nothing so optimistic as tilling soil for seeds where food may grow that fills more than our bellies.
We are doubling down on the ridge this year, intent on bringing more to our dining tables in the Barn and the Bistro than ever before. At the heart of all this new activity is Daniel, who has spent the winter pouring over seed catalogues, networking with neighbors and experts (usually one and the same). He has searched out the best techniques to feed the soil, sourced heirloom varieties of new fruit trees that may flourish in our remote dry farmed location, double dug beds and dealt with our sudden infestation of voles. (The gentlest of souls, Dan turns into a 'Taboo' Tom Hardy when it comes to voles.) We now have forty new plum and peach trees. Rows of berry vines. Spinach, arugula, baby radish, beets, and turnips, sweet peas, zinnias, snapdragons, scabiosa and cosmos all in the ground. Once the greenhouse is finished we will endeavor to grow a signature mesclun salad that Chef has longed for - an enticing blend of crisp, herbal, floral, with bright notes of hot and sweet. It will not be easy to produce enough to supply both kitchens that even now must serve hundreds of dinners a day. That there has hardly been any slow down in Healdsburg this winter - despite the torrential rain storms - is a good thing, but an early indication it will be another wild west summer.
The build has been stop and start because of the storms, but it is not too much of a good thing: we need more rain still. The tops of the redwoods are green again, the rivers, creeks, streams and ponds across Sonoma and Mendocino overflowing. I’d say our cup runneth over in Anderson Valley - verdant and lush, every hillside speckled with grazing animals - but ever mindful that most of the world is stepping gingerly through these perilous times, informed humility is what we are all feeling. That, and incredibly lucky.
A heartfelt shout-out to Daniel, and to Chris, Mitchell, Jonathan, Antonio, Ole and Vidal, and of course Geoff and Lukka. Big love to Alexis, Olga and Alisa, who went shovel for shovel with the guys, and then some, before heading back to their lives set-designing, looming, and growing the best flowers on the East Coast. We were a gender, age and ethnically diverse group raising our greenhouse, and the better for it. Pass it on.