Willowside Farm: Where Dogs are the BEST & you can stay overnight in the most rustic, original place on the South Coast!!!!

[Image below: Meet Hillary, one of the resident guard dogs.]

I took my cousin, Gabriele, with me, and we had a fabulous tour of historic Willowside Farm, and I cannot rave enough about it! We were invited to a geese, duck and sheep-herding (national championship) event herdinggeese oh, so calming, so relaxing. The participants, mostly ladies, were just perfect hosts. I cannot remember when I had a more relaxing time.

You should know that Wilowside is an historic dairy, originally owned in the 1860s (something like that, or earlier, even—and certainly, the land could have been occupied by adventurous settlers  before the Gold Rush in 1849) by Pescadero’s pioneer Alexander Moore family. In brief, there were a series of owners but the bottom line is: Willowside was built, and demonstrates today, that it was constructed as a “big time” dairy and showplace. The buildings on the property, and there are many, have been brought up to code comply with the current, rigorous standards of the County of San Mateo. There’s no choice about that kind of thing—I saw earthquake standards put in place in old structures— I recognized them because I have them in my own home.

Willowside Farm manager Michael Head, a former Marine, impressed me so much. He has been working on resurrecting the farm’s original dignity for a dozen years—this is a man who is the best. My cousin and I could not believe that he had accomplished what he had. Fixing up the property was an immense project, more than any of us “mere mortals” could ever tackle. What a man!

And, now, one of the big long barnslongbarn will be used for events and weddings, with the nupitals performed at a nearby lake, so dreamy lake Lake2 you will never want to leave.

Right now there are rustic accommodations  (the former quarters for the cowboys, including circa 1950s handwritten “graffiti” on the bathroom door!) for overnight guests: I may not be accurate on the cost, but i think Michael said something like $60 bucks a night for a room in a place that has no equal on the Coastside. I mean, if you want ruggedness, if you want to experience the way it was, try one of the guest rooms. Very authentic.

I understand that, in the near future, “Outstanding in its Field” is doing a wedding at the dairy. Wow. I look forward to hearing about one of their lunches or dinners there.

I know, I know. The South Coast. The last frontier on the Coastisde—but this is worth it. The owner, and the managers, Michael Head and his wife, Julie Sittig have taken, perhaps one of the most special properties on the South Coast, and turned it into a treasure that will soon be known all over the world.

(In fact, Michael told me that someone took a photo of the main blue and white trimmed house, and was selling it as a postcard of an authentic old place to stay overnight in France.)

Michael pointed out a “Dawn” redwood

which is fringy-ier than the usual redwoods we are accustomed to seeing here on the Coastside. In the 1970s the “Dawn” redwood caused excitement when the same tree was found growing in China.

Willowside Farm has used a flock of cats as enforcers to move out the rats and other undesirable critters. And there are peacocks everywhere;  the males display the full spectrum of color


while nature has protected the females with a neutral look so as they protect their young on the ground. When we were visiting, we saw baby peacocks trailing behind the mom, the color of “invisible.”

I applaud you: Willowide Farms.

(This was written off the cuff; I was excited by what I saw. Sad to hear that  “sticky fingers” took so much from the old Willowside, authentic relics, irreplaceable,  but so much history remains for all to enjoy along Stage Road…….)


[Image above, circa 1980. Me standing in front of Willowside Farms, photo by Suzanne Meek.]

[[Note: Local  artist/photographer Susan Friedman produced a documentary on Alice Mattei  before she died and the property was sold. The doc gave an accurate picture of how the dairy worked, the work ethic of the Matteis, and how everyone in Pescadero attended the parties there.] Also, above photo of Hillary, a “guard dog”, was shot with the new iPhone. It’s amazing what the new iPhone photo can do close-up. Not bad, huh?” Oh, and that’s my shoe in the picture!]


*And don’t forget*

3rd Annual Willowside Ranch PICNIC & BARN DANCE

Saturday, 22nd August from noon – 8:00 pm
2400 Stage Rd. Pescadero



There will be hotdogs, hamburgers, vegiburgers & sodas.

Bring you favorite side dish &/or something that you like to drink to share .

Bring your friends, but LEAVE YOUR PETS AT HOME.

Call Michael & Julie for info (650) 879 0768

or email willowsideranch@gmail.com

Posted in Michael Head, Willowside Dairy

From John Vonderlin's New Camera: "Golf Balls in Outer Space"

JohnVStory/Images from John Vonderlin

Hi June,

I checked out a new book from my library entitled, “Hubble Imaging Space and Time.” It’s a great coffee table book with lots of excellent. awe-inspiring photos, and a comprehensive insider history of the Hubble Space Telescope project. When I was looking at various pictures of the now famous “Eagle Nebula,” whose pictures were plastered all over the media in 1995, and revolutionized Space photography, I realized it would be a great background for close-ups of some of the golfball remnants I collected this year. Though Neptune’s Vomitorium has been quite unproductive this year, every once in a while it spit out a golfball or two. Some of them quite old and fantastically eroded as this one.



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1924: Crew Missing as Boat Hits Island Rocks

From the Redwood City Tribune, 1924

“Finding of a small trawler, pounding itself to pieces on the rocks near Ano Nuevo Island, off the Pescadero coast, today, led to expressions of grave fears for the safety of the crew of the boat. The trawler apparently struck the rocks some time during the past week, and by today had been battered into splinters. So far no identification of ownership has been made by those investigating. No trace whatever of the crew of the trawler has been obtained. Conflicting rumors concerning the finding of the boat have spread here, principally involving a supposed fatal trip of rum runners along the coast, with the probable washing overboard of the crew and cargo., if such things did take place, by the treacherous seas along the coast here. There have been numerous incidents of late, it is stated, revealing that rum runners unfamiliar with the handling of boats have been meeting with disaster in the heavy seas.”


“Pescadero’s mystery ship which has been pounding itself to pieces on the rocks off Ano Nuevo Island, was today identified as the ‘SS Fremont,’ rum running vessel which struck the rocks January 4, it was stated this morning. The wreck of the ‘Fremont’ occurred, it is said, when the pilot of the craft mistook the light on Ano Nuevo Island for the light on ‘Mile Rock,’ which is the signal to turn east for entry into the Golden Gate. One life was lost.”

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1891: The Pebble Beach Road

From the “Coastside Advocate,” September 1891.

“The Pebble Beach Raod”

Pescadero is disgusted, indignant, and angry, and well it should be, for one of the greatest attractions and pleasantest features—Pebble Beach–has been formally closed against all. L. Coburn, who owns the land lying between the county road and the ocean, has locked the gate on the road leading to the beach which has been open to the public for thirty years, and emphatically forbids trespassing on his property. As there is no other access to the beach the action appears a piece of spiteful officousness. What Mr. Coburn’s motive is we cannot conceive, as the road through his land does not injure it in any way, and as he is one of the largest land owners in this section it seems that he would be vitally interested in the progress and popularity of Pescadero, instead of depriving it of its chief attraction. Mr. Coburn doubtless has reasons for taking this selfish measure, but we seriously doubt if the reasons are justifiable, whatever they may be. A petition signed by almost every tax-payer in the community has gone to the Supervisors praying them to condemn a road through Mr. Coburn’s property to the beach. As to the beach itself it is below high water mark and of course government tide land. And, as to the road, the law reads plainly that a road that has been used as a highway for five years or longer cannot be closed against the public without special aciton by the Supervisors. Mr. Coburn has made himself universally unpopular by this action and the people are now determined to carry the matter to a final issue and ascertain if Mr. Coburn can legally tyrannize over them as he is endeavoring to.”


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March 1923: Subdivided: 10,000 acres

“Consisting of 10,000 Acres at Pescadero To Be Subdivided”
From the Half Moon Bay Review, March 1923

“Lyon and Hoag announces the placing on the market of the famous Peninsula Farms Ranch at Pescadero (formerly known as the Coburn LC10 ranch.)

This ranch is the last large holding down the peninsula in San Mateo County, close to San Francisco and it is also recognized as the largest body of artichoke and vegetable land in California.

“There are several hundred acres in full bearing artichokes, and the bottom land along the streams which is wonderfully fertile and adapted to the growth of early peas, sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, early potatoes and all other varieties of vegetables.

“The owners have spent a large amount of money in developing an adequate irrigation system at a cost of approximately $100,000, making the largest body of irrigated vegetable land in San Mateo county. The attractive features of this project is the fact that the purchaser steps into a large income from the time he takes possession. Artichokes have been bringing this season from $12 to $18 per crate, and the average yield is about 50 crates per acre, so returns are almost unbelievable, and the growth of artichokes is one of the most renumerative of all farming industries. Owing to the fact that the available land for artichoke growing is very limited, and the industry is only in its infancy many people are being attracted to this particular line of agriiculture and it is the one branch of farming that cannot overdone, as there is not sufficient land with proper climatic conditions available. The Peninsula Farms Property is right in the center of the artichoke district and therefore is attractive on account of the fact that this class of farming in this locality is not experimental but an assured fact.

“The Halfmoon Bay Coastside Artichoke Growers Association is spending a large amount of money throughout the United States at the present time in placing before the people the valuable qualities of artichokes. There are very few green vegetables to be had at the time that artichokes begin to come into the market therefore they demand a very high price and the outlet for this vegetable is unlimited, it being impossible to supply the demand.

“Another very renumerative crop is early Irish potatoes and several cars have already been shipped from this ranch and sold at a fancy price realizing a handsome net return to the grower.

“The bottom land is dark chocolate loam soil, very rich, and all the vegetables grown in and around San Francisco, will do exceptionally well on these lands.

“The owners of this ranch have a rate of $6.00 by truck per ton from the field to the commission house to San Francisco or direct to cars. This is a big item and is cheaper than rail transportation.

“Many locl people have been waiting for this ranch to be subdivided into small tracts and every indication is that it will be rapidly sold to people who know the value of property.

“Since the announcement of the sale of this ranch sales of over $50,000 have been made with many inquiries and every indication for quick market for the whole property.

“The ranch is only a couple hours ride from San Francisco by automobile, is reached via San Mateo/Half Moon Bay and thence to Pescadero.”

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1873: For Sale–Mr. Cleland's Ranch

September 1873

“For Sale. That well known piece of property on Butano Creek, five miles from Pescadero and four miles from Pigeon Point Landing, known as Cleland’s Ranch, containing 160 acres, 30 acres of it first class bottom land under cultivation, the remainder No. 1 redwood and pine timber land. Improvements consist of a comfortable dwelling house, barn, store house and fine bearing orchard of choice fruit trees. Climate healthful and pleasant. Price $3,500. If desired for a mill site, several hundred acres of fine timber can be bought with the above. F.G. Cleland.”

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Joel Bratman: Travel Vicariously

All photos from Joel Bratman


You’re invited to view my photos from yesterday’s Berkeley Kite Festival.


I’ve also added a couple pages to my “Scenes of the USA” gallery and made a new “Signs of the USA & Canada” gallery.




– Joel

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