By Kim Carr:
Click here to start at the beginning of Kim Carr's "Beyond the Farm Gates" series.
By the time my friend Barb and I pulled back into her driveway, the car odometer read a total trip of 769.6 miles. We had just completed a nice little trek from her home in Scotts Valley, California, to visit three national parks: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite. These were first-time visits for me, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime visits. The memories will be held dear and near to my heart forever. It’s amazing how much can be packed into one trip. Since my travel is limited, I may put more value on opportunities like this than others; but then again, maybe not. I just know my time in California was special to me, beyond words. Our first night home, Barb's husband, John, fixed homemade pizza for dinner. There's something endearing about a meal being made special for you. It tasted extra good and really hit the spot after being on the road for several days. Nothing like sitting down to a home-cooked meal with dear friends.
Hard to believe that despite having grown up in the 60s and 70s, I had never ridden or driven a Volkswagen Beetle. No need to be a big car buff to appreciate a vintage VW. We didn’t take the VW on our trip to the National Parks, but I did get to tool around Scotts Valley in it. Not sure how comfortable it would be on a 700+ mile trip, but I certainly enjoyed my trips up and down the hills of the neighborhood and down to the market to pick up supplies for dinner the next night.
Being a small Missouri farmer, I don’t often visit the meat counter. Since I raise my own meat, it is processed at the butcher shop, cut to order, and wrapped in butcher paper or vacuum sealed, depending on the cut. I am fortunate to have a freezer full of meat that I am able to choose from at home. Going to the local market in Scotts Valley was a treat for me because it was something out of the norm. Barb and John frequent the market for their weekly groceries. They don’t often eat meat, so with my visit it was a bit of a treat for them too.
John did as he had my last visit in 2017; he talked with the butcher, Jared, and let him know I was coming into town. In Missouri, a pork steak is a common cut of meat found in any grocery store, but here in California it is not something they keep on hand or are used to eating. It was exciting to have Jared hand-cut three beautiful pork steaks from the shoulder he had in his case. I imagine this is how it used to be, or maybe still is; I’ve just been removed from it for so long. While waiting on the steaks, another gentleman came up and kidded with Jared that he never hand-cut steaks for him. We struck up a conversation and had a good laugh or two. While waiting in line to check out, I noticed they had CBD-infused soda, which I found interesting. Guess you can get it in about anything nowadays. Soda doesn’t really make sense to me, but to each his own. Outside the market, they had a gentleman barbequing meat for inside the market deli. It looked delicious and smelled even better. I was really looking forward to barbequing dinner tonight. Pork steaks are my specialty.
With only one full day left of my vacation to visit friends in California, Barb and I loaded their dog, Mulligan, into the car and headed out to the Lighthouse Beach in Santa Cruz. Earlier in my visit, we went to the dog beach at Rio Del Mar. Between the ocean, the fresh air, sunshine, beauty as far as you could see, time with friends, and dogs in the mix . . . well, it was one of my favorite moments in a special list of amazing moments. I think every dog lover needs to spend time at a dog beach at some point in their life. Watching all the dogs romp and play as they run freely over the sand and surf just does the heart good. Oh, there are plenty of people to watch too, and birds, waves, and sky. I got to watch a lot of surfers too, lining up in the water to catch a wave as others bobbed up and down as little waves failed to form into anything big enough to ride. There is something mesmerizing about the natural rise and fall of the ocean, the feel of sand between bare toes. It is therapeutic, and I took time to soak it all in.
After the beach, we headed to a surf shop. I wanted to get a Santa Cruz sticker for my suitcase. I had gotten one or two during our trip through the National Parks and wanted to add another. While at the airport waiting on my luggage to come around the conveyor belt, I noticed how similar all the bags and suitcases looked. I had tied a green bandana to the handle to help mine stand out. What I really liked were the suitcases full of travel stickers. Why this struck me as being pretty cool, I’m not sure, but I decided I needed to add one to my suitcase. Barb knew of a surf shop in Santa Cruz that would carry lots of stickers to choose from. We parked over by Trader Joe's and grabbed John’s favorite cereal, then we headed down the street to make our way over to the surf shop. Police officers were stationed at the end of the street as we started to cross. The side street was packed with people and lots of signs. We found ourselves in the middle of a demonstration. As we tried to make our way through the crowd, we were quickly swallowed up and became separated. The crowd was a friendly bunch, chanting and marching as they made their way down the middle of the street. Luckily Barb had pointed out the direction I needed to head and had told me where we were going. With that in mind, it didn’t bother me getting sucked into the crowd. They were marching to raise awareness about climate change and the importance of going green for our planet and for mankind. While I have never picked up a sign and marched in a gathering such as this, I do try to be conscientious about my choices. I raise a lot of my own food, I recycle, I try not to waste anything, and I try to be a good steward to the land. Even my current photo series lends to the idea that it is good to protect our planet and its inhabitants. My focus is on heritage breed farm animals, old-fashioned breeds of livestock and poultry, many of which are on the endangered list. So, as I was swallowed into the group of peaceful marchers, I felt a sense of belonging; these were my kind of people.
By late afternoon, we found ourselves back at home for the final evening of my time in California. Time was spent relaxing with the backyard hens: Pearl, Mrs. Brown, Ruby, and Chick-Chick. They enjoy getting some leftovers from the fridge, especially fruit. We took one last walk around the neighborhood with Mulligan. We didn’t spot any wildlife, but I was fascinated by the new growth sprouting from the base of a giant redwood tree. It is interesting to see these tiny shoots of green that will someday tower way above, blocking the sun and only allowing it to dance through the shadows it will create. For our last dinner together, John heated up the grill as I cooked in the shadows of the towering Redwoods. Truly, the view from this deck is just so peaceful. As I grilled the steaks, Barb made homemade mashed potatoes and served our meal with fresh applesauce made from their neighbor’s apples. You can taste the freshness, so sweet yet tart— easy to go back for seconds and maybe thirds. . . .
Every once in awhile, we need to hit the refresh button on our souls. This trip allowed me to do just that. It made me ever-more grateful for the things I have, the life I live. I am so fortunate for the friends and family that I have. Getting to step away from the farm for just a little bit of time provided that refresh button. Knowing my critters and the farm were in good hands, I traveled without worry, took in the sights, sounds, and flavors—boy did I eat great . . . YUM—each meal was an absolute treasure. I also took advantage of my sense of touch. I touched a wild mustang who has been given a second chance at life. I touched the bark of a giant Sequoia, sand, a tortoise, fresh fruit at the Farmers Market, the stone that makes up Moro Rock. Water rushed over my feet from the Pacific Ocean and the Merced River in Yosemite. I felt the pebbles through the soles of my shoes along the Vernal Falls Trail. I heard the chants of people walking in the streets for a cause, the wind atop Moro Rock, the barking of an excited dog running along the beach, and laughter from my friends’ grandchildren as we celebrated Sawyer’s 8th birthday, the clucking of the hens as they searched for insects in the underbrush of the Redwoods. This journey of 5,000 miles was everything and more than expected. If you get a chance to hit your refresh button, do it. You don’t need to take a journey of thousands of miles. You can step out onto your porch or stand in the middle of your kitchen, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and appreciate all that you have. Beauty and happiness are all around, if you only take time to embrace it.
Kim Carr is a photographer and mid-Missouri hobby farmer who has combined her love for the country life with that of natural-light photography. Her work reflects my commitment to sustainable agriculture and the humane treatment of all animals. To learn more about Kim, read her interview with Elizabeth Gracen here.
To purchase Kim's photography, visit her website.