Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

HOMEWARD BOUND: Talk about a view! This week, we chatted with Tara, a new HOMEGROWN member and a Pennsylvania transplant who has just crossed the threshold of her new California homestead. We got her thoughts on week 1 on the property—gophers bad, fresh-baked bread good—and a preview of her plans for what’s next. Welcome home, Tara, and welcome to HOMEGROWN.

What is Meet Your Neighbors? Most of us spend a fair amount of time tending our online gardens, but it’s easy to forget there’s a real person behind every quiche recipe, chicken inquiry, and hoophouse design here on HOMEGROWN. Well, nuts to that! MYN gives us a chance to meet over the back fence and shake hands. (Or maybe hug? We’re huggers. But no pressure.)

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Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on July 12, 2013 at 9:38am

Good morning, Tara! To give folks some background, after a long cross-country move, you and your husband have just settled into a new home on the West Coast—and we're talking very recently, as of last week, right? Can you tell us a little about the property? And (drool), is that it up there in the photo?

Comment by Tara Lehner on July 12, 2013 at 10:07am

Good morning! Yes, my husband and I opened the gate to Rancho La Cueva on the evening of July 3 and we are slowly working on settling in. It's an incredible property east of Anza, California on 21 acres. Originally settled by Greek Immigrants in the 1920s, there was a cave built into the hillside (hence, the name) and vineyards were planted. It seems to have transitioned to a Hollywood producer in the 1950s and the house was expanded. It seems to have reached it's hey-day in the 1960s and it was all downhill from there.  The previous owner bought the property in 2009 (after it was vacant for about a decade) and has done a lot of clean-up but it was their second home and the rest of the family didn't enjoy leaving LA as much as he did. Now we'll live here full-time... and we have a LOT of work ahead of us!

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on July 12, 2013 at 10:23am

First off: Congrats! It sounds like a property with a real sense of place and quite a history, not to mention the fact that it's breathtakingly gorgeous—although one photo can't convey all of the heavy lifting ahead. Thank goodness you've got a spot like the one pictured above, where you can go appreciate the big view and get a break from all of the brush that needs clearing and walls that need rebuilding and on and on. What has been your biggest surprise in week 1? And the best moment overall?

Comment by Tara Lehner on July 12, 2013 at 10:28am

Thank you, we hope to be able to honor the history and make this a thriving homestead! The big view is all around us and we can't stop taking it in. The best surprise this week has been the number of mature fruit trees we've found. The 'worst' surprise was the drain back-up discovered when we ran a sink downstairs. Best moment overall is the end of every day... when we are bone-weary and sitting on the porch watching the stars come out. I love being physically exhausted at the end of each day.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on July 12, 2013 at 10:36am

That's a great feeling, knowing that you've eked out every productive minute of the day and have really earned your rest at the end of it! So, given that there's a lot of work to do between here and there, what are some of your future plans for the property (in addition to chomping into that surprise fruit, of course!)?

Comment by Tara Lehner on July 12, 2013 at 10:43am

We have so many plans! Vegetable gardens, dwarf goats, chickens, rabbits have been discussed since we first saw the place.  Some more recent discussions have surrounded a pig (or two) and aquaponics. Of course, everything has to be built from scratch (including any animal housing), so these plans will take a while to implement. The first reclaimed wood frame for a raised bed has been completed, now I just need to line with hardware cloth (gophers) and fill!

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on July 12, 2013 at 10:47am

Just awesome! You've hit the ground—aka the gopher-proof raised bed—running! Speaking of veggies, we heard you've been a CSA subscriber for the past five years or so, and judging by your profile, yoga is important to you, too. Are these part of a larger interest in healthy eating and living?

Comment by Tara Lehner on July 12, 2013 at 10:56am

Definitely. Yoga and meditation are key to keeping me (somewhat) sane. CSAs opened a whole new world of cooking for me and my husband. We are both active but love to eat good food. Like yoga, it's all about balance.  

We used to live downtown in Philadelphia where we could walk to a Whole Foods and bike to pick up our CSA. We're now in a really small, spread-out town where a convenience-like store is the closest thing to a grocery store. If we want to drive 45 minutes, we can get to a Whole Foods... not really sustainable.  In the local paper there was an article about a woman who wants to start a farmer's market. That was exciting... there is definitely room for growth here.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on July 12, 2013 at 11:06am

Sounds like there's room for growth and at least a couple of new residents—ahem, you guys—who will help nurture and tend it. Maybe you'll even find some HOMEGROWN folks in your neck of the woods. (HOMEGROWN types in the greater Anza area, unite!) OK, last question and then we'll let you get back to it. We know you've been on the road for the last month or so, en route to the new homestead. After all that time away from a real kitchen, what are you most looking forward to cooking? And before we sign off, thanks so much for spending part of your morning with us. We can't wait to hear more as your adventures unfold!

Comment by Tara Lehner on July 12, 2013 at 11:10am

Homemade bread! I baked my first loaf two nights ago and thought... We're finally home.  Thanks again and have a great weekend!


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