The Panoche Valley: a place where you can’t get cell signal, but you can get real food.


The Panoche Valley is in a time warp. As my father-in-law says, it’s like going back to the 1950’s. There are no cell phone signals here (thank goodness, I don’t miss it one bit now that I have a land line), few ordinary neighborhood conveniences like gas stations or chain grocery stores, and once you have been here for a bit, a very strong sense of “neighborhood”. I don’t mean like a suburban feel. Ha. Far frickin from it. I mean like when the people who live nearest to you are good neighbors, and being neighbors means being a sort of community, not just residing closely to each other.

Actually it is way better than the 1950’s. Here’s why:

Except for toilet paper, I can get basically anything I need here in the valley. Pork from the pastured pork farmers, who also sell homemade bread or trade it for things like eggs–which we will be producing and trading with in the coming months. The rancher we live “next door” to sells delicious grass-fed beef that he raised, and the dairy also has beef from bull calves past. The organic vegetable farm almost always has something in the vegetable category growing and ready to harvest. There are pomegranate trees full of sweet, edible ruby fruit; pistachio, olive, and walnut trees that linger as the remains of orchards long gone by, full of produce each in their own season. And of course, raw cow and goat milk in excess.  A neighbor who works for a winery can get us amazing wine when we need it, and when Spencer doesn’t have time to brew his own beer, the Panoche Inn bar provides that. Oh, and if we feel like some wild boar, or goat meat, that’s available too. And we plan on raising poultry for meat as time permits. Basically, this is foodie paradise. And now that it’s green ( a fast fading color, alas), it is also breathtakingly beautiful. You can see for miles.


The Panoche Valley Solar Company, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, has and I believe currently is attempting to put thousands of acres of solar panels over the valley.

Like other valley residents, I feel that solar is a great energy option when it is installed on homes and businesses–not when it is “farmed” by corporations willing to destroy farmland and range land in the name of “alternative energy”. Last I heard the PVSC and Duke were cowed into making their “solar farm” (dumb, dumb term) much smaller because it would ruin habitat for endangered animals and birds that reside in the valley. As well as causing noise pollution and light pollution in one of the most quiet, peaceful places in the state. No more pristine view of the stars–no more listening to a bird fly over. No more green grass in the spring, under the permanent shade of the huge photo-voltaic panels (which will be made in China, the company proudly states).

It’s like the New Hetch Hetchy. Except worse because people live here and make a living off the dirt and the scenery and all of the little marvels that 24/7 noise and light would destroy in an instant. I saw that the Panoche Valley Solar Company sponsored the San Benito Rodeo coming up in June. Although they happen to be a subsidiary of a huge power company, they were in the lower tier of sponsors, which means they didn’t give that much money; I guess they must really care about San Benito county. . . ok, rant over. Life goes on.

In other news, spring is here. The leaves are starting to come out in earnest on all the trees. This is one of our black walnut trees. Sweet tasting nuts but with awful shells. Hard as a rock.

In a last-ditch effort spurred on by the chickeny smell in our mudroom, Spencer finished the little coop for our laying hens, and we moved the chicks out to their new home. The wood and roofing was all scavenged or donated by neighbors, and the door was one we found in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Sacramento 3 years ago. New that thing would come in handy! We replaced the screen with hardware cloth to keep predators out, and put a handle on it that was scavenged from a midtown doorknob store that shut down. The roof panels are a little beat up, but maybe one day we will buy some new ones to make it look even more official. It’s on skids so that we can move it occasionally to put the hens on fresh ground, and when the rainy season comes again next year (please God let it be a wet one!) we will put up panels over the door and windows to keep the rain out. For now we want all the ventilation we can get.

Actually didn’t take Spencer that long to build. I think if things had gone differently we would have made one awesome tiny house on a trailer to start farming with in MN. Seems like a long time ago. Different universe. Oh well, the kids are pretty happy anyhow. There’s Mol with our only white hen, Goldie. She has green legs. Pretty bird.

DSCN1385 DSCN1384

And in the great tradition of Spring, babies are being conceived and born all over the place. We thought maybe we would try for some kids too. Nope, you’re wrong. This kind of kid:

Meet Elsie, and Elf. They came with their names, but they seem like good names anyhow. Half dairy goat and half Nigerian Dwarf goat, they should be good little milkers and playmates for the girls. I wanted a dog, but they seem just as fun as puppies without the accidental bites and house training to worry about. For now. I still want a dog one day.  Helps that they were a gift from the ladies who own the goats at the dairy, and that we have an unlimited supply of goats milk to feed the little suckers 🙂

Ok people of the Interweb, have a great week.


7 thoughts on “The Panoche Valley: a place where you can’t get cell signal, but you can get real food.

  1. Absolutely wonderful. I love the goats. You might want an answering machine with that land line so when I call and you’re not there at least you’ll know I called. I’ll try again on Friday! Love you!

  2. Glad to have your upbeat update and pictures. It sounds like isolation and drought have given way to valley neighbors and green. We are glad things are going so well.

  3. I love the job you did on the coop Spencer! It looks great! And we love and think about you guys often:) I’ll keep reading…and is there a good time we could come visit? Message me on Facebook when you can:)

  4. Ok, here’s the funny about how I happened upon your blog. I was just lookin for a few pics for my California Trippin’ board of my Pinterest site I was thinkin of a few far flung places I’d enjoyed and Panoche came to mind. How? Cuz one time I was supposed to drive from Monterey to Fresno to visit a friend and decided I’d take that lil ol greyline road instead of the highway….got stuck out there yonder, ended on a dirt road after the pavement ended….had to pee so got out in the middle of a group of cattle, figuring they didn’t care [they didn’t]…did my thing, and got on my merry way. Always a fond memory of ol Panoche. and a smile. So now yer Pinned darlin’ AND….I actually have heard of Claravale dairy as a friend who worked at New Leaf in Santa Cruz told me about the fabulous raw milk…but that’s another day. look forward to readin more. continued success. Marie

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