Sonoma County is a unique place. On the westside, Highway 12 and Occidental Road run parallel to each other between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, with peaceful countryside in between the two roads: grassy pastures dotted with gnarly old oaks and grazing cattle, egrets and herons foraging in meadows, and white-tailed kites hovering above in hopes of catching a critter to eat.
About halfway towards Sebastopol along Highway 12, you’ll see an entrance to the Laguna de Santa Rosa, an amazing and huge freshwater wetland. My friend Christine and I went for a walk there a few years ago. It’s the perfect stop to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Once back on 12 West, go straight through Sebastopol and continue on Bodega Highway past the high school. Just before you get to the cemetery up ahead, you’ll see the sign pointing left to the
Luther Burbank Experimental GardenGold Ridge Farm
First thing I came upon arriving was the tail end of an old-fashioned juicer being used to pressing, well, fresh apple juice! This incredible machine is actually available for use to the people in the community at no charge. I like that! Especially in a town that’s famous for its apples.
The Luther Burbank Gold Ridge Experiment Farm was first established in 1885 and at one time the property consisted of just a little over 18 acres of land. Luther Burbank died in 1926 and his widow gifted the remaining 15 acres of the original farm in 1974 to the City of Sebastopol Housing Corporation. The agreement was that a three acre parcel, which would contain the existing “Caretaker’s Cottage”, would be set aside to always remain the experimental garden, and that remaining 12 acres be used to build housing for low-income, senior and disabled people. I like that too! Especially in a place with a very high cost of housing.
Let’s walk the loop around the garden!
Watch out for gopher holes! 😉
Luther Burbank was a horticultural genius!
During his 55 year career he developed over 800 varieties and strains of plants,
including the Shasta Daisy and the Santa Rosa Plum.
Check out some of the daisy varieties and the inside of the cottage!
Inside the Caretaker’s Cottage, I encountered a 84 year old volunteer. She patiently answered all my questions about this farm and explained how volunteers run the entire operation! On a nearby shelf were some small jars of homemade jam for sale. They are made by volunteers, who, if I remember correctly, use fruit from this garden with delicious results. I picked out one each of the peach and the Loquat jams. I’ve heard of loquat fruit and trees, but had never actually seen anything edible made with this uncommon fruit. When I finally tasted the loquat jam at home a week later, I regretted not buying an extra jar. It was fantastic! I’ll get some more next year for sure!
We chatted a bit more about life, the state of our country, the world, and politics. I always appreciate a spirited discussion about politics, as long as the other party is well informed, able to listen to the other side and not dismiss points of disagreements because one has to be right! But this being the West County, it’s never difficult to find forward-thinking people there. She also expressed gratitude for being able to live right next door to the farm in one of those affordable apartments, and have enough money left over for essentials.
It was time for me to go and pick up the Zendog at a friends house.
Walking out the door, I heard the woman’s voice
“You’re one political babe!”
I turned around, smiled and waved goodbye.