Field notes from California's North Central Valley

Where it began

I live with my husband and young daughter in Davis, California, in a small rented house, on a small patch of land, that looks much like the homes of my neighbors. We have a lemon tree, and raised beds are forthcoming. It’s nice, but it’s no farm.

So before I start writing about other people’s farms–mostly within the north Central Valley area around Davis–I wanted to share some glimpses of where it all began for me:

That's me, circa 1980-something.


Dillard, Missouri. 40 acres next to the Mark Twain National Forest.

Wheat fields. Open space. Broken boards on tattered red barns. The smell of creek water winding its way to the Dillard Mill, where we caught trout and catfish with my dad and later spread his ashes. My mother’s garden, rows of lettuce and radishes beside the fence to our pasture. Bringing a colander with me to gather green beans, tomatoes–not really caring to eat them at the time, enjoying the harvest more, the snap from the vine. The air thick and bug-ridden, the grass tick-ridden, Queen Anne’s Lace brushing my legs. The stick of the blackberry bushes, growing in snarls by the woods–the *thunk* as the berries hit the bottom of the old white bucket. The crush of them, mixed with sugar and pectin, solidifying in our refrigerator.

On our pony, Tiny, with my sister and dad beside me.

Climbing the rungs of a weathered wooden ladder, its spine running up the barn’s body, combating the wasps for a quiet space, a hiding place. The sweet smell of manure. Waiting for the lambs to be born. The new lamb, suckling my finger. The horse muzzling my hand as I fed it dried corn. My sister, galloping, so assertively across the field, blond hair flying. My father, on his beloved tractor, happy for the growing fields so that he may cut them.

My dad in front of our barn.

Stepping out of our house and walking into pasture, open space. Fresh air crisp as a Granny Smith, turning my nose red in the cold, straight into the lungs.  Walking alone if desired, which was much of the time. Boots on wet leaves, the smell of wild persimmons, the cracked husks of walnuts in the fall. The woods after first snow–silent but for the slushing of my feet, or a sudden clump of snow, falling like cold crumbs from tree limbs. The dogs at my feet, their wet noses buried, drinking in the cold.

These were the 40 acres of my childhood, a personal playground, one I knew even then was special. I grew from this land. While the acreage I call my own has now shrunk considerably, I carry this farm with me.

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4 thoughts on “Where it began

  1. Sydney Brooks on said:

    So wonderful to read your words & perceptions of your life & family. Love to you ALL!

  2. Barbara Greene on said:

    Wonderful descriptions, thanks for beginning your blog!
    Many blessings.

  3. Beautiful prose, Kat. I’m happy for you that you have this place to remember and cherish. Living on a farm and seeing the cycle of the seasons and the web of life is an unmatchable experience. Thanks for making this so vivid and poetic.

  4. Hi. I’m finally reading your blog, and I already know I’ll enjoy it immensely. More comments later, I’m sure.

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