My friends, Richard and Judith Selby Lang, artists and environmentalists in the Bay Area, have a wonderful blog, “RANCHOD: occasional reports from the laboratory garden at Rancho Deluxe.
The Langs ran San Francisco Electric Works for years. I got to know Judith when she created the most marvelous artwork for my six-year traveling exhibition, The Veil: Visible & Invisible Spaces.
From the “ABOUT” page of “RANCHOD” —
The big joke was “Rancho DeLuxe” in its Ur-state was basically a tear-down. Once a cabin circa 1917, it became a hunting retreat and party house for the DiMartini family in the 1940s. After years of neglect, the house was composting itself and on its way down the hill. The basement came with a seasonal creek water-feature and three 20-yard dumpster loads of rotting rat-turd laden couches. Deluxe indeed!
Richard named it for the eponymous 1974 movie of modern day Surrealist tale of Montana cattle rustlers who plied their trade with a pickup and a chain saw. These days we simply call it the “D”.
On its way down the hill yes, but the hill is five acres, with an acre and a half of south facing pasture including a 1917 nine hundred square foot barn— funky but stabilized and re-roofed.
Nothing but charm, distant views and ample space to realize the counter-culture dream of “back to the land”. What we call the “’60s” was more than sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, more than liberation politics for the non-white non-male, more than the tsunami of gurus blabbering self realization. It was all that, for sure, but mostly the ’60s were about accepting the incumbency of your own life as you were called on to make your own reality in a DIY dream of self-sufficiency. The dream was if you did it yourself you could leave behind the tiresome denunciations of “the man.”
Judith’s journey of living an alternative life-style began in ’70s in the foothills of Napa where for three years she lived without electricity and running water in a hand-built “pod.” She honed her bio-dynamic gardening skills and had a goat named “Ergo.” All the while, she painted watercolors and learned to play Greensleeves on the recorder. Her simple back-to-the-land adventure got complicated by the vision of building a natural food store, so she found herself living in town and being in business. Fast forward to 1999 when she met Richard, a kindred spirit who shared her fascination with Helen and Scott Nearing as exemplars of the living the good life.
In 1974, Richard moved to Woodacre in the San Geronimo Valley from Wisconsin with an MFA degree in sculpture. The University of Wisconsin has a vibrant Ag School and so electives in soil science, vegetable production, the history of US farming were on the syllabus. What fun field trips! Finally, in 1992, Forest Knolls became home at the “D” where he had the luck and scant wherewithal to buy a place where we all can experiment to our heart’s content; to fool around with our own brand of Practical Biology, to see what the Earth could provide when you combine the notions gained from the peripatetic life of the artist, with the rigor of dirt, germ plasm and sunlight.
In this family we are all dedicated artists of varying brands, willing to fiddle around to see—just how does this life work anyway. This blog is a report of the ongoing fiddle. It is by no means a practical guide for anything save that fiddling which has it’s own strange music.
I’ve just been alerted to this blog and am following it with huge enthusiasm. Check it out. The Langs are amazing people — just who I’d like to be if I ever grow up. https://ranchodblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/midas-the-sunflower-king/