The Skagit Valley sits about an hour north of Seattle and is home to a lot of tulip farms. The spring is the time for the tulip festival. Unfortunately, the beginning of the festival was not a great time for us to get up there with other things going on. However, as things calmed down for us, we were able to get up there towards the end of things. We may have missed the peak time but there was still some impressive stuff to see (and hopefully quite a few less people!).
The fields were absolutely full of tulips. They filled your field of view and you quickly became blasé about the vibrance of color around you. Finding a way to try and convey the sight was a little trickier. The thing I did find particularly visually appealing was the way that people would be walking along the paths between the flowers but appear to be afloat in a sea of flowers. They were all busy photographing themselves in amongst the tulips so were not aware that they were the subject of more than one photo.
San Juan Island is home to some varied creatures. I swear that, as we drove down one road, we went past a camel. We also saw an alpaca farm. There was a shop that sold all sorts of alpaca related stuff. Plenty of yarn (which was pretty pricey) and various alpaca gifts were available. I wasn’t too keen on any of this, though. Outside, you could take a walk around and see the animals themselves.
There were many fields with the alpacas in them. They were well spread out and didn’t seem terribly bothered by the presence of the visitors (of which there were plenty considering how quiet things were generally). They came in a variety of colors. Food seemed to be their primary concern but occasionally they would look around to see what we were doing. Mostly, though, they were more bothered about each other than us.
How much do you know about Olive Oil? If you are like me, probably not a lot. I know I like it and it is a regular part of my diet. After that, not so much. While staying in Paso Robles, we paid a visit to an olive oil farm. Kiler Ridge Farm has a large number of olive trees and a pressing facility. They press their own olives and olives for other growers, some of the oil from which they will also buy if they like it. The farm is still developing their crops but they have a significant business underway.
The tour is in two parts. One is a 90 minute discussion about the way in which they grow the olives, harvest them and turn them into oil. The owners are a very engaging couple who are passionate about this business and very analytical about the way in which things get done. At points, I think a portion of the visitors were zoning out when the math of yields was being discussed in great detail. For an engineer, it was perfect!
When the tour is done, you get to taste the oil. I was a little skeptical about this aspect. Taking a sip of olive oil seemed a little odd to me. We got to try and number of different types of oil and were shown how to taste it and what to look for. Despite having the remnants of a cold, I could still see the differences that were being discussed. Amusingly, they also provided a sample of a well-known “premium” brand of oil and the blandness was striking after tasting the others. There were some quite shocking details about just what can be sold as Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the US!
Aside from the interest of the tour and the tasting of the oil, the location was not bad either. Sitting atop a hill surrounded by olive groves and the rolling hills around Paso Robles on a sunny day was a delightful way to spend some time. Once we were finished, we just wandered around the grounds for a while taking in the view. Very relaxing. Stop by if you are ever in the area.
Our friends, Rich and Julie, have a great house in Lancashire which is in a small village that has a lot of farm land around it. The fields surrounding their house provide grazing land for some cows. I needed to go out to the edge of the fields to get some shots of the sunset and the cows in the field found my presence a curiosity that they could not resist. They came across and started leaning as far as they could across the fencing to try and lick me. I don’t know why licking me seemed to be so appealing! I was trying to get my shots so wanted to avoid them if possible but they were pretty tenacious so each time I moved, so did they.
They were pretty sweet animals. They weren’t at all threatening – just curious about what was going on. I obviously wasn’t cooperating with their curiosity and eventually they got bored with me and moved on with their mission to eat all of the grass in sight.
If you head across the Dumbarton Bridge at Fremont, you will pass Ardenwood Historic Farm. On the right side of the highway as you head towards the bay, this farm has been a feature of the area for over 100 years although it is now a fraction of its former size. However, it is now under the control of the East Bay Parks District and open for the public to visit. It is a combination of little bits of what a farm would be. You could say it perpetuates some of the myths you have as kids about what farms are like since we grow up thinking that all farms have a bit of everything rather than just being a cattle farm, growing a single crop or raising chickens en masse.
However, it does provide an opportunity to see some aspects of an old style farm much as they once were. The farmhouse itself is quite impressive. The family that owned it became quite influential in the area and had the house to match. The grounds are nicely laid out and it was a pleasant spot to spend some time as the chickens that were scrabbling around in the dirt near us also seemed to think.
There are goats, sheep, pigs, horses and cows in the grounds. They get a lot of attention from the visitors and we were no exception. The goats were the most active seeming to be more interested in the leaves on a tree above a bench in their enclosure than the food that they had been provided. A couple of the kids were desperately reaching under a fence. I guess the grass really is greener…