Tag Archives: Marin County

Breakers Cafe, Stinson Beach

Breakers Cafe in Stinson Beach, California

Breakers Cafe in Stinson Beach, California

We were on our way home from our fantastic weekend in Dogtown and stopped for breakfast in Stinson Beach. I noticed the Breakers Cafe on our way to Dogtown on Friday and it looked good enough to try out.

First impressions were good. Even though it was a damp morning it looked bright and inviting. Inside it was large but not crammed with tables and chairs. In one window was a comfortable sofa and two easy chairs with books and magazines to hand. Unfortunately that area was already occupied but we found a table right next to a gas fired stove.

Food is ordered at the counter and served to the table. Thank goodness they had oatmeal on the menu. For $7.95 it comes with cranberries and walnuts, plus the usual raisins and brown sugar. Tom ordered a Sammy’s Special which consisted of chorizo and eggs with black beans, salsa, rice and tortillas for $8.95.

I really liked the way the walls were decorated. The theme was definitely nautical – a sharks head; a large wooden propeller; a surfboard; a large fish suspended from the ceiling; a lifebelt; a collage of shells and small rocks round the self serve coffee area; another collage, but larger, over one of the windows with a net as a background and large bits of driftwood and flotsam mounted on it. The art work varies – small oil paintings of local scenes; two of old woodies (for the benefit of non US persons, a woodie is an old estate car with wooden panels on the side); a couple of black and white photos of buildings, presumably in Stinson Beach; plus one which depicts a policeman and two scantily dressed men outside a house. But what really caught our attention was a collage made up of white plastic rubbish which had been washed up on a beach. A brightly colored but very unhappy mermaid had been painted over the rubbish giving a powerful message.

Now for the food. My oatmeal was great. A nice full bowl liberally covered with fruit and nuts. The milk was warm, foamy and served in a fair sized stainless steel jug. Tom said his chorizo was the best he had ever had. Everything on his plate was good. The salsa was hot and spicy, just how he likes it.

There were separate restrooms for men and women. The women’s was large, clean and smelt nice. There was an old wooden cupboard in one corner with a marble top. An antique looking coat rack was on the wall. Also on the wall was a large painting of an orchid. The facilities though were a little primitive.

Our overall assessment of the Breakers Cafe is very positive and we will certainly visit again. This visit was on a Monday and not crowded at all. I expect it would be a lot busier at the weekends.

Breakers Cafe
3465 Hwy 1
Stinson Beach, CA 94970

Dogtown, Marin County Part 3

Tomales Bay.  I always liked this building.

Tomales Bay. I always liked this building.

It was raining once again when we woke up. We stayed in bed drinking coffee and tea. I read about the history of the ranch and Dogtown in a brochure found in the loft which was compiled by Anne and Russ.  It contained both personal memories, photos and newspaper articles. The original inhabitants were the Coast Miwok Indians. The land became part of a Mexican land grant which was called Rancho Baulines and given to Gregorio Briones in 1846. In the 1850’s a thriving settlement named Woodville grew up around a sawmill. One of the descendents of Gregorio Briones lived on the property during the first half of the 1900’s. Lots from the Rancho Baulines began to be sold off in the 1950’s. In the 1960’s the property was bought by a couple who built the original house. There were two more owners of the property before Annue and Russ bought it in 1992 after reading a small ad in the local paper.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Dogtown acquired it name in the latter part of the 20th century due to the number of dogs local hunters owned. In the early 1900’s the name was changed to Woodville because the residents, mostly lumberjacks and miners, wanted a more decorous name. In the early 1970’s another resident petitioned and won the right to change the name back to it’s original name of Dogtown.

This was the day of our ninth anniversary. My present to Tom was this weekend. His present to me was a lovely new watch. I lost my previous watch back in May when we were in Grass Valley for the weekend. This new watch has a titanium strap and is gorgeous.

Lying in bed I could see the bare patches in the corrals were now extremely muddy. The horses don’t seem unduly concerned about the rain. Again we heard them pawing the floor of the barn while they waited for their breakfast.

Over breakfast we discussed where to go that day. We had the same dilemma as yesterday, except all of the trails would be even muddier today. We decided to head to Point Reyes and Drakes Bay. We planned to take a walk along the beach where we would be protected from the elements as the beach does not face the open ocean.

The sun was shining when we left with lots of blue patches in the sky. It feels a bit cooler than yesterday though. Hopefully the rain would stay away until later in the afternoon. Once again we drove north along Highway 1. Everything looked clean and fresh after the recent rains but the grass is very wet. The sun makes all the difference, giving a sparkling effect as its rays reflect off drops of water on the leaves of trees and bushes.

At Olema we turned left making our way past the road to Bear Valley Visitor Center and past a road to Olema Marsh. Even though we left a lot later than usual, there were not too many cars on the road. I expect the rain had dampened the spirits of the tourists.

Mountains of oyster shells at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm

Mountains of oyster shells at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm

Passing Rogers Ranch brought back memories of our visit in September. We could not see any chickens out in the field today but saw some of the grass fed beef. We took the short detour to Drakes Bay Oyster Farm. The drive skirts Schooner Bay and there were quite a few ducks and coots on the water and egrets standing in the water  close to shore. As we got out of the car we saw an egret very close. Too close in fact because as soon as we started to walk it flew away. It land a short way away and just behind it stood a blue heron. Tom, of course, had to take some photos.

Afterwards we walked towards the shop. Tom carried on towards the mound of oyster shells. Another photo op. I went into the shop. The oysters here were cheaper than the ones on sale at Tomales Bay Oyster Company. I told the girl behind the counter that I had never had a raw oyster and she was glad to answer my questions. She explained they came in four sizes, small, medium, large and extra large. The smaller ones are younger and best eaten raw. The larger ones are older and best cooked. She told me how to open them. Special shucking knives were on sale there but a butter knife or screwdriver would work just as well. Oysters should be opened with the side on top so the juices stay in the bottom. The knife should be inserted into the gap and worked around a bit and then twisted to open the shell fully. The oyster dies as soon as it is exposed to the air. It is attached to the shell at the bottom and this has to be cut free. They can be eaten by just swallowing them almost whole but that seems such a waste to me. How can you know what they taste like? The girl told me she likes to chew them a bit before swallowing. She also recommended serving them with a squeeze of lemon or tomato sauce. As I was determined to try oysters on this trip, I bought half a dozen small ones. The girl put them in a bag with lots of ice.

The beach at Drakes Bay.  The scene hasn't changed much since the days when Sir Francis Drake landed.

The beach at Drakes Bay. The scene hasn't changed much since the days when Sir Francis Drake landed.

Our next stop was Drakes Bay. The wind whipped the door out of my hand when I opened it so decided to put my warm, fleecy jacket on. Tom being more hardy, didn’t bother with a jacket. Even though it was chilly the sun felt warm.

I wandered down the beach, which is long, curved and sandy. Along the edge of the shore a host of birds were busy. The sanderlings were probing with their long bills into the sand and seemed to be having a lot of success. There was also a flock of dunderlings busily running around. It is so amusing to watch them. They stand near the edge of the water in a group with their backs to the water. When the next wave roles in, they wait until it has nearly reached then and then collectively they take off, running just in front of the water and chirping excitedly like day old chicks. It’s like watching a group of silly little girls who love to be frightened by the water by running away from it and squealing at the same time as though they love to be scared. I stood watching for a good ten minutes before I moved off.

The cliffs here are very fragile and resemble compacted mud. It looks very much like shale but lighter in color. It reminded me of the cliffs in Lyme Regis in the UK, which are good for fossil hunting but try as hard as I could there were no fossils between the thin layers. The rock, if that is what it is, is fragile and almost crumbles to the touch. As I walked along the bottom of the cliffs every so often there would be a clatter as a scattering of rocks came lose and tumbled down to the sand.

This is where it is reputed Sir Francis Drake spent a few months back in 1579 when he stopped on the circumnavigation of the globe to repair his ship, the Golden Hind. He wrote that the cliffs reminded him of the White Cliffs of Dover. He claimed the area for Queen Elizabeth I and named it New Albion.

Just mesmerized by the waves, the sun and Drakes Beach.

Just mesmerized by the waves, the sun and Drakes Beach.

I almost had the place to myself as I wandered further on down the beach. When I came to an area with a flat rock extending into the sea I walked out onto it. It was full of little rock pools but there were no crabs or small fish lurking in them. The waves breaking just offshore were magnificent to watch, Rising and curling before toppling over, the waves rushed to the shore. It was a wonderful place to be with the sun shining down and warming me up.

Tom caught up with me and we spent about ten minutes just contemplating the crashing waves and enjoying the scenery. We then made our way back towards the car. We were walking into the wind and talking became difficult.

Back in the car park, Tom put his camera away and we walked to the cafe which is right on the beach. There is also a visitors center though we did not go inside. We did read a series of information boards in a small courtyard about Sir Francis Drake and they were interesting. In the cafe we bought a couple of hot chocolates and sat outside on the patio in the sunshine. Fortunately we were sheltered from the wind. It was great, just sitting there enjoying our drinks and soaking in the views.

Afterwards we climbed up the small headland called the Peter Behr Overlook. The climb to the top did not take long but it was very steep.  The view from the top encompassed the whole Drakes Bay so the effort was worth it.

At 1.30 we started back to the ranch. For a late lunch we ate the oysters. Tom struggled valiantly to open them and I tasted my first ever raw oyster. It was not at all as I expected it. I imagined the oyster to be bigger, plumper and whiter and did not realise there would so much liqud that went with it. The liquid though tasted just like sea water. The taste of the oysters was not unpleasant but not something I would want to eat every day.

Just after 4.30 we set off towards Point Reyes Station but before we left we had to give the horses a snack. They wolfed down the carrots in no time at all. We arrived at Point Reyes Station just before 5 and filled up with gas before heading for Point Reyes Books to spend the interim time browsing books before heading to Osteria Stellina for dinner. Once again we had an amazing meal. I had roasted brussels sprouts and toasted hazelnuts to start with, followed by pork tenderloin, potato gratin and kale; finishing up with the three artisan cheese dish. Tom had something completely new for the starter – marrow bone jelly with capers and lemons. His main dish was ahi tuna with mixed vegetables and he finished up with chocolate cake. To drink Tom had a glass of red wine and I a glass of chardonnay. While I was eating the cheeses, our server brought me a glass of port as a complimentary drink. He asked Tom if he would like one as well and he of course said yes. All in all it was another fantastic meal at the Osteria Stellina and a perfect way to round off our anniversary weekend.

Dogtown, Marin County – Part 2

The view from our bedroom at Woodville Ranch

The view from our bedroom at Woodville Ranch

During the night it rained heavily. Several times we woke up and each time we could hear the rain steadily falling. It was so nice to be snuggled up in bed.

At 7 we were woken by the sound of the horses moving below us in the barn. It was breakfast time for them. Outside it was still overcast and we could hear water dripping from the eaves but the heavy rain had ceased.

We decided to go into Bolinas for breakfast. There is only one cafe in the town – The Coast Cafe- and that is where we headed. We have had breakfast here several times but it must be under new management. It’s called brunch now not breakfast and the menu has definitely gone upmarket. I had French Toast with organic pears with a side of apple chicken sausage and Tom had Fish Tacos. Our food was good if a little pricey.

When I planned this weekend, it was with the idea that we could be doing a lot of hiking. But the rain during the night made a change of plan necessary. All the trails would be too muddy now. We ended up taking a drive north along Highway 1 to Bodega Bay.

Our first stop was by the Bolinas Lagoon. The day was beginning to brighten up and there were bits of blue sky to be seen. The outside temperature was only 52 degrees though. The lagoon was beautiful. This time our view had the hills in the background.

Our next stop was just before the Woodville Ranch. I wanted to get a photo of the green Dogtown sign (see part 1 for a photo of the sign). The population was originally 30 but it had been crossed out several times. The total population is now 33.

The views towards Olema and Point Reyes Station were outstanding. The recent rains had turned the grass green. On one side of the road is the Point Reyes Natural Seashore and on the right the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Everything is pristine. We drove through Olema and then Point Reyes Station, the latter being busier than the former. Today Point Reyes Station were holding its weekly farmers market. All along the way were trail heads. Point Reyes is a walker’s paradise. So many places to explore.

Tomales Bay Oyster sign along Highway One

Tomales Bay Oyster sign along Highway One

We stopped at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company where it was a hive of activity. Oysters were being brought in from the beds, placed into large tanks to be rinsed and then sorted into sizes. A dozen small oysters sell for $10 and a dozen large for $18. The oyster beds are out in the bay and are clearly marked with colored buoys. We were chatting with one of the oyster sorters. They were expecting a busy day. The sun was shining and they were planning on a lot of customers that day. They have lots of picnic tables, all with their own BBQs. I guess people come, buy the raw oysters, cook them and then eat them. In fact several groups were already arriving and laying claim to their tables and starting to light BBQs.

Highway 1 swings inland for a bit and we were driving along by the side of a creek. In the small town of Tomales we took a detour to go see Dillon Beach. There were some amazing views of the Point Reyes headland and the entrance to Tomales Bay. We stopped by some rock formations so Tom could take photos. I stayed in the car because I could hear the wind whistling around the car.

It didn’t take long from there to reach Dillon Beach. It is a small town with narrow streets. There was only one place to park but the charge was $7, which seemed an awful lot of money for a five minute stop. We carried on driving to the end of the road and ended up at Lawson’s Landing. The road dead ended at a trailer park with an entrance fee. We turned around. Driving back through Dillon Beach, we had to slow down to negotiate a couple of the bends because two pickups towing trailers were taking up most of the road.

Instead of retracing our steps to Tomales, we took a short cut back to Highway 1 along Valley Ford Road. This time the spectacular views were inland and we could see for miles. At the small hamlet of Valley Ford we turned right onto Highway 1.

Western sandpipers hunkering down waiting for the storm to arrive

Western sandpipers hunkering down waiting for the storm to arrive.

Bodega Bay is a strange place. We never found a downtown as such with shops. Along the shore there were lots of restaurants with their own parking lots but there was nowhere we could stop to look around. We drove to the end of the town and then turned towards Bodega Head. We did park for a while in the marina but didn’t stay long. The weather was beginning to deteriorate. At a small inlet at the beginning of the marina was a mud flat. A host of water and wading birds were busy searching for food but what amazed us were a flock western sandpipers.  At first they were difficult to spot as they blended in with the vegetation but they were all standing facing in the same direction and hardly moving. They were bracing themselves for a storm.

We headed back to Dogtown. The rain started to come down as soon as we left Bodega Bay. We could see down towards Tomales Bay a huge rain cloud and the rain falling in the distance.  We thought about the Tomales Bay Oyster Company and thought they would not be too happy.

In Point Reyes Station we stopped to buy food for our evening meal. We bought wine, olive oil, spinach and bread at the Palace Market on the main street; cheese at the the Cowgirl Creamery on 4th Street and a small filet mignon and a rib eye steak in the Marin Sun Farm butcher’s shop.

Tom cooked our meal and it was superb. We finished the bottle of wine and chatted while the rain beat down. We were content.

Dogtown, Marin County – Part 1

Dogtown, California

Dogtown, California. Population 30, oops, I mean 33

For an anniversary surprise I booked a weekend away in Dogtown. Everybody I told had no idea where Dogtown was. In fact I had never heard of it until I picked up a book at Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station on our last visit. It was called ‘The Dogtown Chronicles – Our Life and Times with Sheep, Goats, Llamas, and other Creatures’ by Doris Ober. It was a fascinating read about a couple in Dogtown and their animals. When I went online to find out more about Dogtown, I found a vacation rental, The Loft at Woodville Ranch, and decided it would be the perfect location to spend our anniversary.

Update 1/21/2013: Sorry to say that the loft is no longer available.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Where is Dogtown I hear you ask? It is on Highway 1 just north of Bolinas. When we set off after the rush hour on Friday morning, Tom had no idea where we were heading. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I told him to take the Highway 1 exit towards Stinson Beach. That narrowed the choice of our eventual destination.

The forecast for the weekend was not very promising. Rain was likely Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That Friday morning it was overcast and once in Marin it started to rain.

We stopped at the Pelican Inn for a drink and hurried inside out of the rain. The Pelican Inn is the nearest to a British pub I’ve seen in California. The bar is small and the furniture, with its pew like seats around the wall and small round wooden tables, feels like home away from home. The barmaid even knew what a shandy was without me having to explain how to make it. On the walls were black and white photos of the Royal family from a few years ago. A sign in the restroom amused me which warned that the plumbing was ‘Authentic English Tudor style.’ Obviously tongue in cheek as there was no such thing as plumbing in Tudor times. A mass communal pit would have been more authentic.

Bolinas Lagoon

The beautiful Bolinas Lagoon

It had stopped raining by the time we left The Pelican Inn and we enjoyed the ride along Highway One. The road twisted and turned with occasional glimpses of the ocean. Even though it was still overcast we were able to see the Farallon Islands quite clearly.

Tom thought our destination would be Stinson Beach but we drove straight through. The tide was in and the Bolinas Lagoon was full. It was an amazing ride driving the length of the lagoon and observing all the birds on the water. We drove past the turning to Bolinas and Tom was puzzled. Where else was there to go? The next stop, he thought, was Olema.

When I saw the small green sign which announced we were entering ‘Dogtown – population 30, I told him to get ready to turn left. Then when I saw the sign saying ‘Woodville Ranch’ I asked Tom to turn into the drive. We had arrived. To the left stood the main house and ahead was the barn. Our home for the next three days would be the loft above the barn.

The Loft at Woodville Ranch

The Loft at Woodville Ranch. Beautiful setting, beautiful place. Everything was perfect.

We knocked at the door of the main house. The door opened and Anne Sands greeted us. She took us to the barn and showed us the loft. On the way we saw the beautiful Arabian horses who reside there. The loft is a marvelous place – long and with lots of windows. At each end there are long windows which stretch from the ceiling nearly to the floor. In the bedroom, a four poster bed and antique furniture. There was a full size kitchen, a small eating area and a sitting room. Everything you could wish for in a holiday home.

Anne explained that there were a couple of stores in Bolinas, including a co-op behind the community hall which sold local organic produce. I asked about nearby walking trails and she showed me some beautiful, hand drawn maps of the property and surrounding area. There were a couple of trails on the property and many more in Point Reyes National Seashore.

After we’d settled in, we drove into Bolinas along Mesa Road. One of the maps was of Bolinas and showed that the Coastal Trail starts at the end of Mesa Road. Mesa Road turns into a gravel roadway running past the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and ended in a car park. We ventured only a little way along the trail. We would have liked to have gone further as it looked interesting but we thought it was gong to rain. We did go of on a short spur which led to a fabulous view from the top of a ridge overlooking the ocean. The Farallon Islands, although still visible, were slowing disappearing into the mist.

trunk of a eucalyptus tree

Foot of a giant prehistoric creature or the trunk of a eucalyptus tree?

We felt raindrops as we made our way back to the car and we were able to reach it before we got too wet. When we got to the sign for the bird observatory I noticed it said ‘Visitors Welcome’, so we turned into the driveway. At the end was a car park and a Visitors Center. Inside there was a lot of information of the work they do there to catch and band birds. They use a misting net. Most mornings the activities can be viewed but not at 4 in the afternoon unfortunately. We walked around the small museum with, amongst other things, a collection of bird skulls. On display were the skulls of a pelican right down to a hummingbird. It was amazing to see how small and fragile the skull of a hummingbird is. They also have guided bird tours from time to time. We plan to return for another visit sometime.

Back in Bolinas we found the co-op where we bought some organic carrots for the horses.  Feeling hungry, we went to the Coast Cafe for an early dinner but unfortunately it was closed.We went a nearby store and asked if they knew what time it opened and were told 5 o’clock. By this time it had started to rain in earnest and we did not really want to hang around for three quarters of an hour until the cafe opened. We decided to buy some food in the store and returned to the loft to cook our own supper. Earlier we had bought a dozen eggs from Anne and with an onion, a large potato and some mushrooms we made and enjoyed an omelet.

We spent a cozy evening watching a DVD and listening to the pounding rain outside. We wandered whether we would be able to get out for a walk the next day or whether the rain was set in for the weekend. We retired to our marvelous comfy bed for an early night.

Marin Sun Farms, Point Reyes

North Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore

North Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore

Back in August Tom emailed me an article from Bay Area Bites written by Stephanie Rosenbaum.  Marin Sun Farms’ philosophy is their livestock are 100% grass fed and pasture raised. To pass the message on, they conduct tours of their farm every month from spring until the end of September. It looked interesting, so we booked a tour.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Early on a weekday morning we set off. It was still dark and an enormous moon hung low in the sky. We took Highway 280 north. As it was officially the rush hour, we were expecting a lot more traffic than we normally experience on a weekend. Yes, there was more traffic, but we were able to travel at our normal pace until we reached 19th Avenue in San Francisco at the end of 28o. Obviously there was more traffic heading south.

We have come prepared for all kinds of weather. In the directions we were advised to dress in layers. As it is a walking tour, we took the precaution of wearing hiking boots.

When the sun came up we knew it was going to be a beautiful day. There was a little bit of fog about but once we had driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, the day just got better and better.

In Fairfax we stopped for breakfast. Afterwards we took a short walk around Fairfax village. There were lots of eating places, all unique, and many interesting shops.

At 8.30 we set off again towards Point Reyes Station driving along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The going was a bit slow through Fairfax due to rush hour and there were lots of children making their way to school. Once past Fairfax, the road became really scenic. Lots of trees, some of which were redwoods, and lots of wonderful views. Before long we were in the Point Reyes National Seashore which is a pristine and protected area and one of the jewels of California. Point Reyes is really a special place. There is nothing else like it. Maybe because it is totally unique. After all, this is where the Pacific Plate, on which Point Reyes sits, is slowly moving north and, in the process, is slowly grinding along the edge of the North American Plate, on which most of California sits. The whole of Point Reyes used to be much further south and that explains why the geography is so different from the mainland. Not that Point Reyes is an island of course, as there is no bridge to reach it.

We drove through Olema and, still keeping to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, we took the road to the lighthouse. The meeting time was 10 a.m sharp but of course we arrived at Rogers Ranch, which is very close to the Estero Trail, at 9:15. We continued driving towards the lighthouse to while away some time. The weather is a little different here. The sun is shining but the temperature has dropped to 55 degrees and it was breezy.

Before we reached the lighthouse, we took the turning to North Beach. Neither of use has been here so it was like a mini adventure. The road dead ends in a big car park. We had the place almost to ourselves. There is a long sandy beach and a few fishermen were at the edge of the shore and a host of seagulls were screeching and squalling. It is a very exposed location and the wind whipped around.

Dave Evans of Marin Sun Farms

Dave Evans of Marin Sun Farms

At 9.45 we headed back towards Rogers Ranch and arrived in good time. There were a few other cars around so thought more people had arrived. It turned out there were two other people already there. The four of us stood around for a while waiting in the car park. Just after 10 Dave Evans, the owner of Sun Hill Farm, sauntered out of his house holding a coffee cup in his hand. He said we would wait for a short while for more folks to turn up.  22 people had signed up for the tour. He chatted away about his interest in sustainable farming. By 10:30 four other people had joined us. Did all the others get lost I wonder?

Dave told us that he was raised on the nearby H Ranch. His grandparents and parents were traditional dairy farmers but after he went to college to study Farm Management he became interested in grass fed beef and using no chemicals. He disliked the idea of cattle being fattened up on feedlots where they were corn fed, kept in small pens and pumped full of antibiotics. Cows are built to eat grass not corn. His dream was to run a sustainable farm. He became inspired by the idea of running a sustainable farm and raising beef just on grass through from calving to slaughtering.

He knew where to start and finish but the bit in the middle – the fattening up part – had to be worked out.  He had a two year association with Bill Niman of Niman Ranch. Bill Niman is no longer connected with Niman Ranch and runs a small farm in nearby Bolinas where he raises cattle, goats and turkeys. He and Dave are still friends.  In 1999 Dave started Marin Sun Farms with 25 head of beef. Since then he has signed up other historic ranches on Point Reyes and farms from further afield who raise grass fed beef.

Eight week old laying hens at Marin Sun Farms

Eight week old laying hens at Marin Sun Farms

Dave went into the history of the area. For thousands of years Point Reyes has been a pastoral settlement. The Miwok Indians were the first to gather, fish and hunt here, when the tule elk roamed freely and grizzly bears abounded. By the beginning of the 19th century the Spanish government were giving out land grants for the expansion of cattle ranching on the peninsula. In 1857 the law firm of Shafter, Shafter, Park and Heydenfeldt obtained over 50,00 acres of farmland on Point Reyes and set up the dairy farms now known as the A – Z historic ranches. It was a very successful operation with large quantities of best quality butter and cheese being shipped into San Francisco. In 1962 the Point Reyes National Seashore was formed and the land was acquired through eminent domain. David’s family lease the land back from the Park Service. David now leases Rogers Ranch which his uncle used to farm.

David’s story and his approach to farming was fascinating to listen to. I glanced at my watch and saw that David had been talking almost non stop – apart from someone asking the odd question – for an hour and a half. All that time we had been standing in the same place.  It was time to actually see around the farm. We walked past the house and dairy barn which were built in 1943 and David pointed out a bee hive. He explained that water for the farm comes from well and spring water and he plans to go solar.

Our first stop was at the Brood House which contains the one and two week old chicks. They arrive as day old chicks and stay in the Brood House for three weeks. The temperature inside must be kept at a constant level. To ensure there are no drafts, every crack in the old wooden building has been covered with insulating material. He opened the door for us to look inside. We could not see very much from outside but could hear the chicks chirping away. These chicks would be for raised for meat not eggs. When they are big enough they will be transferred to bigger cages which can be transported to the field. There they will be able to graze on the grass. Every day the cages are moved so they have fresh grass. Chickens raised for meat are not very adventurous and do not want to roam very far.

Eggs from Marin Sun Farms ready to be washed

Eggs from Marin Sun Farms ready to be washed

Our next stop was large wooden building where the eight week old laying hens were kept. They had plenty of room to move about and when the door opened several of them managed to get out of the door but they didn’t get far.  When the hens are ready to lay eggs they are transferred to mobile chicken houses which, like the meat birds, are moved out to the pasture and moved every day. The difference here though is that every day the doors are opened and they are free to roam where they will. They are guarded during the day by a large white Great Pyrenees dog whose job it is to protect them from predators. The chickens scratch around in the grass and feed on insect and larva. In the middle of the mobile chicken house are the nesting boxes. The floor of the houses are made out of open metal work so all the chicken droppings fall through and fertilize the pasture underneath.

On our way out to the fields we were shown the Egg Processing Room. Trays of eggs were stacked high. The eggs are collected twice and day and brought to this room to be washed and packed. They are sold at farmers markets for $7 a dozen. As we carried on up the path, Dave pointed out the electric fence and we were warned not to touch it as it carried 900 volts, enough to give us quite a jolt. While we were walking, he was explaining the life cycle of grass and what happens when a field is over grazed.

Marin Sun Farms.  We had a wonderful time and learned a lot about sustainable farming.

Marin Sun Farms. We had a wonderful time and learned a lot about sustainable farming.

We finished the tour by driving a couple of miles down the road to look at some of his dairy cattle out in a field which had a couple of radio masts in a fenced off area. Dave said the masts were used for ship to shore communication. There were about 50 cows in the field, including Hereford, Angus, Short Horns and a couple of Blue Short Horns. They were all pregnant and due to calve in March. Although we are nearly into October there is still plenty of grass for them to feed on.

At 1:00 the farm tour ended. Tom and I made our way back to Point Reyes Station to have lunch at the Marin Sun Farms butchers shop and cafe just outside the town at 10905 Shoreline Highway 1. Not only can you buy genuine grass fed meat at a reasonable price but they also make the best hamburgers ever. We ordered a beef burger with cheddar and house-smoked bacon, and a goat burger topped with caramelized onions. They were served with a delicious green salad and a pickle. They both looked so wonderful we cut them in two and had half each.

It was a very educational and interesting day and it was refreshing to hear someone who is so passionate about what he does. The farm tours start up again next spring so, if you want the same experience, be sure to check online next year.

The Sleeping Lady, Fairfax

The Sleeping Lady in Fairfax, California

The Sleeping Lady in Fairfax, California

Once again I check Anna’s Cool Finds for a place to have breakfast on our way to Point Reyes. We chose Barefoot Cafe in Fairfax. We arrived at 7:20, feeling really hungry and looking forward to a great breakfast but were sadly disappointed. As we drew up outside, it appeared dark and, sure enough, it was not open. Anna said it opened at 7, the sign outside said it opened at 7, but that morning it was not open. Fortunately Fairfax has a great choice in eateries and right across the street we found The Sleeping Lady.

OK it doesn’t look quite as appealing as the Barefoot Cafe, with it’s ivy covered walls, but the menu looked good. Inside it was not your normal breakfast diner. It looked more like a bar; in fact it was a bar. A few locals were enjoying their breakfasts and we were greeted by a friendly server. We chose a table near the bar. The tables and chairs are very pub like. The chairs are covered in a dark colored, slightly sleazy, upholstery.

From the extensive menu Tom chose the Chorizo, onion, mushroom and Pepper Jack cheese omelette ($10.50). I was intrigued by an item on their main menu called Big Oat, which was oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, raisins, pecans & brown sugar ($8.25).

Considering this is primarily a bar there were a lot of interesting pictures on the walls. Underneath each one was a label giving the artist’s name, telephone number and website. As this is Marin, the windows were plastered with adverts for local events.

Now to the main attraction – the food – and we were in for a wonderful surprise. Tom’s omelette was served on a large, square plate with crispy home fries and decorated with slices of lemon. My oatmeal sure was BIG! It came in a huge glass bowl, more like a mixing bowl you would find in a kitchen. There it sat on a large, square plate, surrounded by small ceramic containers containing the blueberries (unfortunately they were not fresh but frozen), a generous helping of pecans, bananas, brown sugar and the plumpest, juiciest raisins I have ever tasted. The milk, which was served separately because there was no room on the plate, was warm (nice touch). The oatmeal was piping hot and besides being the biggest bowl I have seen, it was pretty darn good. I tried very hard to eat it all but I confess to not quite making it. Tom was impressed with his omelette. He said it was very tasty and there was lots of it. The coffee was not Peet’s but good all the same.

The restroom was another big surprise. The vanity unit had a beaten copper sink and surround. There was just one picture on the wall. It was an old black and white photo of a man and his donkey in front of an old house with a grass roof. The caption underneath said ‘Conner’s Seventh Jenny’. On a wicker chest sat an interesting vase filled with ornamental grasses. There was a mat on the floor as well. The facilities were very good and it smelt wonderful.

Would we come here again – you bet.

The Sleeping Lady
23 Broadway
Fairfax, CA 94930

Mama’s Royal Cafe, Mill Valley

Mama's Royal Cafe, Mill Valley

Mama's Royal Cafe, Mill Valley

This weekend I am on a course in Sausalito and Tom came along for the ride.  Of course he brought his camera along but so far has not been able to use it because of the rain.  I do not know how he is going to entertain himself today while I am working.

Once again, I checked out Anna’s Cool Finds to see where to eat and she came up trumps.  Mama’s Royal Cafe is an absolute treasure but how to best describe it is going to be a challenge, but I’ll do my best.

The cafe is set back from the road but look out for the brightly colored sandwich board on the sidewalk.  Parking is minimal so get there early (they open at 7.30 am.)  Outside are few tables under cover and on a sunny day or even a dry one, it would be nice to sit outside but the inside is not to be missed.

There is just one booth and no stools at the counter  so not your normal diner.  All the tables are covered with a thick, plastic cover which sounds dreadful but every one is different and patterned with vibrantly colored fruit.  The chairs are a complete mishmash – Tom and I sat on garden benches.

But the biggest impact to the eye is the walls, which are literally covered with a huge assortment of paintings, photos, posters and curios.  For instance, within touching distance of where we sat were a photo of an old boat; paintings of a mermaid, an ocean liner, James Dean, a huge swan with a woman on its back, an elephant  and a green plant.  At the end of the table is a mural of an idyllic sandy beach with palm trees.  There is more!  A huge wooden mask, a wooden parrot on a swing and an oversize white cup and saucer.

One wall on the other side of the cafe is dedicated to Marilyn Monroe.  Nearby is a cutout of a nun with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and a sign which says ‘Nun Smoking Area’.  Other curious objects which caught my eye – a four foot giraffe with a lei around its neck and above our booth, fixed to the ceiling, four place settings decorated with pineapples and flowers complete with knives and forks.

Must mention the pillars – each one is painted differently – palm tree, pencil, Egyptian hieroglyphics (plus Charlie Brown) and a red, white and blue striped one which I thought represented a stick of rock (you’ve got to be English to understand that) or a barber’s pole but probably meant to be patriotic.

I could go on and on but the primary reason we are here is for the food.  The menu is an art form all of its own.  The Benedicts looked tempting but I asked about oatmeal – which was not on the menu.  The server, who was the only person we saw, though I’m sure there must have been someone in the kitchen cooking, said they did have oatmeal.  I asked for it with raisins and banana ($6.95).  Tom ordered a bacon and cheddar omelet (8.25).

It didn’t take long before the food arrived but that was probably because I was so fascinated at looking at my surroundings.  The oatmeal came in a large, deep, round bowl on a decorated plate.  The sliced bananas and raisins were on top.  Milk was already on the table.  Tom said his omelet was good with lots of bacon and my oatmeal was great and hot into the bargain.  The oatmeal was coarse cut, so nice and hearty.

Now my trip to the restroom.  On the way there I passed a very nice secluded booth.  The thee walls were covered with a mural depicting Rick’s Café Américain from the movie, “Casablanca”.

The bathrooms are down a rather gloomy passage.  I had high expectations that it would be as richly decorated as the restaurant but was hugely disappointed.  The room was large and rather tatty and it was completely bereft of any adornment whatsoever.  Even the pillar in the center of the room was painted a stark white.

For a real funky experience, we would highly recommend Mama’s Royal Cafe.

Mama’s Royal Café
393 Miller Ave
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 388-3261

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