June 25, 2010

Cowboy country

Last weekend Esperando and I took a short spin over to Watsonville, a small farming community on the central coast of California just south of Santa Cruz that was featured recently in Sunset Magazine as a getaway destination for strawberry picking and its great beach.  We drove along winding roads through wooded coastal glens of sunlight and shadow to break out onto waves of rolling hilly farmland that is Watsonville. Besides major crops of strawberries, we saw row after row of lettuces waiting to be picked. I only vaguely remembered driving through Watsonville on my way to Carmel in past times. I was always so eager to get to Carmel and shop, and Watsonville was just in the way.

You will see this kind of view from any narrow road in Northern California leading to the coast once you get away from the houses.


This time Watsonville got its full due. We drove around and took photos of farm acreage, took the very photographic road to the beach lined with old Monterey pines, but turned around because we didn’t want to pay to get into the beach.

A great swooning Monterey Pine looks a bit lonely in the midst of the strawberry fields

Back in town, around the town square we saw a large Hispanic population enjoying the afternoon in the park like you would see in anywhere in Mexico. I surfed on my Blackberry phone to figure out where we might eat and we settled on a popular Mexican restaurant, El Alteño, I supposed stealing its name from ‘Alta California’ versus ‘Baja California’ but I don’t really know. I guess we needed a Mexico fix having been away from Baja now for the last 2 months. The food was so-so, but the streets were full of Hispanic cowboys wearing Stetson hats. After lunch we went next door to a western clothing store and Esperando bought a fancy shirt while I photographed the Stetson hats on their display. One hat was marked for sale for $400. I guess if you are a wealthy farmer you wear an expensive hat, not a Rolex.

This fancy hat is waiting for a home.

As we rambled along we drove by the Redman House, a beautiful old Victorian home, facing the highway, that had seen better days. It had been set up on blocks and looked like plans were afoot to move it elsewhere. A little investigation on the internet revealed an interesting history. Designed by renowned architect William Weeks, this huge home was built for James Redman in 1897. When the James Redman family died out in the 1930s, the house and property were sold to the Hiraharas, one of the first Japanese-American families to own farmland in the nation. Unlike other Japanese families, the Hiraharas managed to retain control of their property during the WWII period of internment. Only in the late 1980's was the land leased to a strawberry grower, the home abandoned and left to deteriorate. The house was added to the National Registry of Historic Places to hinder demolition while the Redman-Hirahara foundation pursued funds for preserving and restoring the property. It seems the plan was to make a small farm around it and make it a visitor’s center, leaving it in its current location. The foundation had owned the home until September 2009, when it lost it to foreclosure. Now, without access to the site, the group continues to toil, working on plans and waiting for what will come next, though it doesn’t know what or when that will be. If you are interested in donating money for a worthy cause this one certainly deserves some attention.

She greets the Pajaro Valley's visitors and passersby like a grand lady fallen on hard times. The interior of the home was finished in eastern oak, birds eye maple and natural hardwoods.


常映 said...
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佳宣佳宣 said...
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