In late April 2011 Sue and I sold our big house in Portola Valley (near Stanford University) and bought a 48-acre, former dairy farm in West Petaluma, California. Petaluma is a medium sized farming town (pop 56,000) about 45 minutes North of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge.
We call our new farm Monkey Ranch. We live in the old farmhouse, originally built in 1879. The frame of the house is first-growth, straight-grained redwood, most certainly cut from hillsides just a few miles west of here. The stucco was applied to the outside of the house in 1941, the same year that inside plumbing was added. The rest of farm consists of six barns, some big, some small, some old, some very old.
Water is less plentiful in Petaluma than in the neighboring valleys, so it’s not known for large row cropping or vineyards. A hundred years ago, Petaluma was famous for its chickens and eggs. After WWII, the egg business migrated to Texas and Petaluma became famous for its dairy farms. Then, over the last 15 years, stricter environmental regulations and failing government subsidies initiated a decline in the diary business. There are still plenty of cows around, but you have to cross the ridge into the next valley to find any milking going on.