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The Fourth at the Farmstead

Started: 2022-07-19 14:52:13

Submitted: 2022-07-20 20:42:06

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Visiting Wilder Ranch State Park for the Fourth of July

For the Fourth of July, we celebrated the holiday with Kiesa making raised doughnuts and garnishing them with red and blue sprinkles. (She asked for white sprinkles as well, but I somehow missed that part of her message when I went to the grocery store, so we asserted that the "white" was covered by the clear glaze. the "red" and "blue" sprinkles were more transparent and less colorful than one might have hoped anyway. This did not affect the taste of the doughnuts in any way.)

Red and white sprinkles on a doughnut
Red and white sprinkles on a doughnut

We went to Wilder Ranch State Park for their Fourth of July celebration. The ranch is a historic farm on the other side of Santa Cruz, perched on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean and stretching into the hills above. (I've been there a couple of times, but I'm not sure I've ever actually documented it here. The state park includes some of my favorite beaches to walk along, Four Mile Beach and Three Mile Beach (and, if the tide is low and, walk along the rocks and tide pools between the two beaches). Four Mile Beach is apparently popular with out-of-town surfers.)

For the Fourth of July, the state park staged a festival including opening the historic houses, live music (their band included a banjo), refreshments, and a food truck. The park was expecting several thousand people to show up, and was parking cars in a mowed field to make room for everyone.

When we arrived we went through open rooms on the first floor of the first historic house. The house had a player piano, and the staff person in the house (dressed up in an old outfit to look like the ranch's heyday more than a hundred years ago) demonstrated the player piano and showed off the collection of player piano reels. I think it was the first time any of us had seen a player piano in action, and it was a little uncanny to see the piano playing itself without any intervention. The front room also had an old hand-cranked record player, and we got a demo of that as well.

We picked up popcorn and watched the park staff try to gather people to join a parade to be held at noon.

Suffrage parade at Wilder Ranch
Suffrage parade at Wilder Ranch

The parade turned out to be a women's suffrage parade, which seemed both historically appropriate, and also a subtle comment on the state of progress of women's rights while we're still digesting the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision allowing states to ban abortion.

Parade at Wilder Ranch
Parade at Wilder Ranch

I watched the demonstration of the blacksmith's shop, featuring a coal-fired forge (which cast the faint oder of coal smoke across the farm), featuring the expected amount of hammering of glowing red iron rod on the anvil to try to make some useful shape fitting whatever was needed at the moment on the farm.

Next door was the machine shop, where a small Pelton wheel in the corner (powered by water pressure from a small pond a few hundred feet above us in the nearby hills) powered an overhead belt powering a room full of machines. There was a lathe, a drill press, a grinding wheel, a coffee grinder, and an electric generator powering the lightbulbs attached to the knob-and-tube wiring in the shop and the adjacent houses. One of the Wilder boys apparently got an engineering degree at Stanford and came back to the farm, and his mechanization of the machine shop was more successful than his work on his mother's sewing machine, which ended up faster and more powerful than she actually needed.

Stove at Wilder Ranch
Stove at Wilder Ranch

I nipped into the second house while the kids were playing in the trees in the front yard. In the kitchen event staff were baking cookies on the wood stove. (I know people cook on wood stoves all the time but the idea of having to tend a fire to get the right temperature still boggles my mind.) In the next room I saw a free-standing heating stove that exhausted into a vent in the wall, which looked the same as vents I've seen in the wall above kitchen stoves in older houses for sale.

We stopped by the food truck for lunch, which was serving various German sausages, none of which were vegetarian; but they did, at least, have massive two-handed pretzels, which were good enough to serve as lunch, combined with the soft-serve ice cream from the nearby barn. (I am not sure if there is an obvious connection between the historic American farmstead and the German sausage truck, but it seemed to work.) When we finished eating we'd seen what we wanted to see, so we departed to spend the rest of the afternoon at home.

I thought briefly about traveling across the mountain to see a fireworks show for the Fourth (and I even considered going all the way to Pier 39 in San Francisco, but it wasn't clear whether Karl the Fog would let us see the show), but given that I had to work the next day and I had already seen Scotts Valley's show the night before, I decided to stay home and declare that my celebrations for the national holiday were complete.