Boulder Creek Village Farm – Epic Organic

By Julie Horner

Late May, late afternoon, and I found myself standing somewhat naked feeling but cautiously celebratory beside a big wooden box filled with several cubic feet of dirt. The afternoon sun had slipped below the tree line and I was underdressed but optimistic in shorts and a tank top. Shivering slightly, rental agreement in hand, I drove my stake down into the brown to mark my territory. I had just nabbed one of the last three remaining 6 ft. x 4 ft. raised redwood planting beds milled and handcrafted on-premises at the newly established Boulder Creek Village Farm. Brimming with beautiful organic soil, each bed represented an open slate promising months of fragrant greenery garnishing the south end of downtown Boulder Creek

I’d missed the grand opening by a couple of weeks when most of the other raised beds had been snatched up by a throng of eager gardeners thirsting for a patch of sun in the forest. Beds were rented first come first served. Proprietor and pilot-turned-farmer, Brandon Parker, said that one person even attempted to camp out. “It was like an iPhone release,” he said. The camper lasted until about 3:00; other people were lined up before 6:00 in the morning. Brandon said, “It was fun, with donuts and coffee, everyone out meeting each other.” By the end of the event all but three beds were taken and 14 out of 18 beds were planted up that day.

Boulder Creek Village Farm occupies the vacant lot next to Boulder Creek Village Wash, which has been in Brandon’s family since 1974. Brandon tells me he’s got new machines coming in – giant front-loaders – “so you can wash your king sized bedspread.” He’s busy refurbishing for a 1950s retro feel, putting in a coffee machine and stepping up the popular drop-off wash service. But he wondered how to make use of that adjacent lot.

He eventually decided it would be best to “open the space up and give it to the community.” While somewhat disconnected from the main thrust of Boulder Creek downtown, “I want people to walk down,” enticed by the curb appeal.

The raised beds of Village Farm occupy about 1/3 of the available space. He pictures having outdoor movie nights, “big long tables for farmers’ dinners,” and live music with small acoustic bands. “I’ve already had a car show with everything from a brand new 2016 souped-up Mustang to 1950s rat-rods. And there’s always the farmers market idea, which proved problematic for some behind the Odd Fellows Hall – maybe at Village Farm the instance would be more inviting from the street with room to unfurl and plenty of parking.

First he’ll get a feel for running the farm operation smoothly by growing it in stages. “In the years to come, it can be as big as the people want it to be. I’m really open.” Some will want to return next year to grow vegetables in the beds, and he’ll be adding gardening classes and workshops. “I like the idea of having cool things for the community to come together.”

The lot gets a full 12-hours of sun in the summer and gets its water from the laundromat. He’s already looking into creating greywater and rainwater catchment systems for the farm and tapping into solar power for the laundromat. Those who joined the farm received the raised bed, soil, amendments, access to water, and tools, “all they have to bring are plants and themselves.” Gardeners and the curious can access the farm from sunrise to sunset seven days a week or walk or drive by any time to peer inside.

“I love Boulder Creek, love the community, and I want to do something positive for the area. The farm has turned out to be nicer than expected…people come out with their kids with watering cans; I can hardly wait to see them pick their vegetables.”

Brandon sees the big picture. “A lot of things need to be changed, and we’re starting at a small level to bring that change.” He’s hoping to set an example by motivating people to eat healthy by growing their own vegetables. “Healthy living is becoming cool. We went so far one direction toward pre-processed foods, now we’re pulling back the other way toward epic organic.”

“We can speak with our dollars. Patronize places that support healthier living.”

A lifelong resident of Boulder Creek, Brandon is thankful to the community for helping out. “The beds were built by Steve Maurer, and Tyrone ‘Ty the Tractor’ Clark brings his rig down from Bear Creek to help move dirt – he’s awesome, stops by to help out. Redwood Edible Gardens donated heirloom tomato starts at the grand opening, Linda Skeff helped line up the cardboard and woodchips for weed abatement, and Lisa Harwell has been a big driving force behind getting things going.”

Boulder Creek Village Farm started as “just a short grass weed field, an open dead lot,” Brandon says. Now all kinds of herbs, leafy vegetables, berries, watermelon, squash, and pumpkins grow. “I want it to be a community space. I wanted to do something pretty.”

Brandon welcomes ideas for future projects that will improve the space and he’s looking for experts who will host classes throughout the growing season. Message Brandon on Facebook:

Visit Boulder Creek Village Farm: 12890 Highway 9 Boulder Creek, CA. 95006


Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email:

Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin:

A Toast to the Craft – Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

By Julie Horner

For two luxurious sun-drenched days, the Santa Cruz Mountains Art, Wine, and Music Festival invited revelers to stay local, kick off their shoes, dance on the green to live music, and enjoy a final taste of summer among the redwoods. On hand to pour hand-crafted suds: Boulder Creek Brewing on Saturday and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing on Sunday.

Local brewer and owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Emily Thomas, remembers when the Art and Wine Festival was on the street and how, like the Redwood Mountain Fair, these home grown festivals bring everyone out. “The mountains needed another incarnation of being outside as a community.” Now that the Art and Wine Festival is at Garrahan Park, she says, “It’s successful and will continue to keep growing.”

“So many places are void of life and creativity. A mountain town so close to the beach captures the best of both types of people, mountain people and beach communities and brings them together. You want people to come here and experience it…if you’re raised in Fresno and that’s all you know, that’s kind of a shame. Living in the mountains – the nature of it – can change your whole perspective on life.”

Fresh from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery to the redwoods, Emily welcomes visitors to her new tap room and restaurant, a clean, simple space without pretention at the historical Cremer House in downtown Felton where locals and travelers enjoy tasty plates and award winning, certified organic craft brew.

The Cremer House will celebrate its one-year anniversary in December and from all accounts the endeavor has been a raving success with a consistent customer base of mountain dwellers and weekend warriors from over the hill and Santa Cruz. Emily says Saturdays and Sundays are busiest. “We get a lot of foodies, and the beer selection is pretty unique” from flagship ales to “wildly inventive seasonals that will bend your taste buds and challenge your senses.”

Emily has always loved food. Her mom was the cook at the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond when Emily was growing up in SLV. But it’s the brewing that ultimately sparked the idea of getting into the restaurant business.

While at college in Portland in the early 90s, two uncles who “didn’t believe in books” taught her how to “brew beer, work on cars, and clear brush.” She did earn her software engineering degree and moved to San Diego to live the corporate life. Eventually eschewing cubical confines and back in the Santa Cruz area to raise her family, the urge to brew bloomed and she opened Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing on the Westside in 2005.

“Our original model was a tasting room to take your beer home with you. But the first week we opened there were hundreds of people drinking the beer in the sun along the railroad tracks.” That got her thinking, “What are the spaces where people hang out?” So she created the tap room and beer garden.

That’s where the beer is brewed for the Cremer House because Felton’s infrastructure at the site won’t support the necessary ebb and flow of craft brewing in volumes enough to serve throngs of the curious thirsty.

Emily made the proposal to SCM Brewing co-owner, Bob Locatelli, to do a joint restaurant as well. She said that neither of them was initially of a mindset to take on a project that big but in the end decided to go for it. It took four years to get all the permitting in place, and the old Cremer building needed to be retrofitted to support modern requirements while still maintaining the historical elements. Emily designed the interior space, local contractor, Chuck Reason, updated the structure.

“That’s how we differentiate ourselves – craft brewers are only 10% of the market, big corporations are still dominant – so small brewers work together, looking for things that make us look unique in our own business.”

The Cremer House serves lunch and dinner and showcases a variety of 25 craft beers on tap including Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and select offerings from other local brewers, ciders, wines, and homemade sodas.

The Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Wine, and Music Festival thanks Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing for sharing their hand crafted brew at the festival and for keeping gracious community spirit alive in the mountains.

Cremer House
6256 Highway 9
Felton CA. 95018
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
402 Ingalls St #27
Santa Cruz CA. 95060

(c) Julie Horner, September 2015

Originally written for and published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: On the Web:

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Second Annual Santa Cruz Mountains Art, Wine, & Music Festival 2015

art and wine fest

Labor Day Weekend – Saturday & Sunday, September 5 & 6 2015
11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Garrahan Park, Hwy 9 Boulder Creek
On Facebook

By Julie Horner

Enjoy the last days of summer with family, friends and community at the second annual Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Wine, and Music Festival at Boulder Creek’s Garrahan Park. Showcasing local artists and musicians, the Boulder Creek Brewery and mountain wineries will be pouring. Expect great food and drink, groovin’ times in the sunshine; face painting, a jumpy house and other activities for the kids. More to be announced!

Proceeds benefit the Art Masterpiece program at Boulder Creek Elementary (see story in the Arts section) and the SLV High IOOF Scholarship Fund.

Here’s a taste of some of the artists and musical talent lined up for this year’s festival!

The Crafty Fox – Heather Richman

I love working with glass in all its forms – molten glass is probably my favorite.  When the glass is heated to molten, it can be manipulated into simple shapes like spheres, cylinders, and barrels.  It can also be rolled and pressed and then decorated with more molten glass, or it can be sculpted into complex shapes – like plants and animals.

 LW glass Pendant

My inspiration comes from nature.  Anyone who sees my glass work would probably say I love the ocean and all its creatures.  My torch-worked glass bead creations are often sculpted creatures (sea stars, jellies, turtles, etc.), but I also create mini ocean scenes on my pressed glass beads.  I make 3-D aquarium beads that are a bit like swimming in the reef (only smaller).

I also work in fused glass – cutting sheet glass and melting it in a kiln.  Some of my plates include Monet-like backgrounds with inlaid copper sea creatures and hand-pulled glass “plants” – creating the illusion of depth.  While my Ocean Series plates tend towards the cool colors of blues and greens, my Caribbean Series plates are very bright and colorful.  I love working in different color palettes, often pushing myself to try new combinations.

While I love the ocean, I also love the forest.  The redwood and oak forests speak to me in birdsong and babbling brooks rather than in crashing waves.  I often use the forest solitude to come up with new ideas and directions.  Standing beneath the redwoods and looking up can make one feel quite insignificant – a bit like a banana slug.

Originally from Riverside, California, I spent 8 years in Seattle, WA before returning to the Golden State and making Santa Cruz my home.  I’ve been here for 15 years and still love it!  The majority of my glass work is available at Art of Santa Cruz (inside the Capitola Mall at the Target end) and Monterey Bay Artisans (Monterey).  I also have limited work at Beach Girl, Many Hands Gallery, Henry Cowell, Seacliff State Beach, and Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center.  I do many shows and festivals in Santa Cruz County, including Open Studios.  My studio is also open by appointment.

On the Web:

His Broidery – Eric Olson Artist

“Express who you are through embroidery art.” The art of raised stitching can transform ordinary clothing and fabric into stylish personalized expressions of one’s self. Embroidered designs can be frilly, whimsical, edgy, strong, or compelling. While flowers, puppy dogs, and swirly letters have provided decorative flair for shirts, coats, pillow cases, and towels for eons, so much more is possible. In addition to cutesy, stitching can be alarming, disarming, and sublime.


San Lorenzo Valley is full of culture… there is so much to find here.  We have Buddhists, we have people who were part of the 60’s culture change, and we have the outdoors and beautiful trees.  All of these things are great for inspiration.

I still make everything at my house in Boulder Creek and my family and I show most of what I make at art shows.  Originally I started making things I wanted to wear, doing whole jackets and hats that represented my aesthetic.  What I create has changed over time, adding some things here and there that, while they may not be what I would wear, I think others might.

I guess one thing about my embroidery is that it reflects different cultures in some way.  My inspiration may be from the Pacific Northwest Native American Tribal art, or Norwegian (my ancestry), or Japanese.  I know it when I see it and I can’t get it out of my head until I can do something with it.

On the Web:

Carol L. Riddle Watercolors

“It is my hope that viewing my paintings will evoke a sense of peace and fond recognition, by locals and visitors alike.”


Felton Library Watercolor by Carol Riddle

I try to capture the beauty of our local scene, choosing to depict what one might see while visiting Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas. I think my favorite thing is “getting lost” in the painting while creating.  That and the “surprises” that the watercolor medium presents.  You just have to adjust as you go.

I like landscapes and the out-of-doors. My family went for camping vacations growing up. Our favorite was the Redwoods, so when I got the opportunity, I bought a house among them. I love color. I use color to represent how I feel when visiting the places I paint.  Since I am SOOOOO into detail, I take my own photographs on location and paint at home in my Ben Lomond studio. The light changes too fast when I try to paint while I am at the location, and it is never the same the next day. So when I see something which inspires me, I take photos. I don’t try to replicate the photo; I try to paint what I felt while at the site.

My best memories in SLV are of quiet, peace. Home.  I volunteer at the Henry Cowell Nature Store at the State Park in Felton.  It is run by local volunteers and Mountain Parks Foundation, which supports Henry Cowell and Big Basin through educational programs for the public about how to preserve our heritage.  We appreciate all the local support.

On the Web:

The Naked Bootleggers

Local favorites from the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Naked Bootleggers are reviving the standards of yesterday while writing the standards for tomorrow. Local musicians Don Mackessy (banjo/vocals), Ona Stewart (guitar/vocals), S.T. Young (guitar/harmonica/vocals), James Mackessy (bass/vocals), Jeremy Lampel (mandolin/vocals) span the gap between old time and contemporary music with captivating vocal harmonies, lyrical creativity and that high lonesome sound of old.


We love all the great music that comes through this area, and we really enjoy working together to present our art for people to enjoy, especially if they like to dance, drink and get just rowdy enough to make it pure fun.

On the Web:

The Leftovers

The Leftovers are a reggae rock group from the Santa Cruz Mountains, a close group of friends that grew up together in the San Lorenzo Valley. Joey Storm and Sean Conner started the band about three years ago writing songs on the beach in their free time. Slowly adding members Travis Salangsang on drums, David Churchill on keyboard, Brendan Brose on bass guitar, Greg Del Bene on percussion, and female backup vocalists Taylor Rae and Sydney Gorham; the band now consists of seven members.


We play upbeat and fun music by fusing roots-reggae music of the past with popular reggae styles of the present, as well as some rock. Some of our biggest influences include Sublime, Rebelution, The Expendables, Bob Marley and many others.

The goal is to create “feel-good” music that will put smiles on the audience’s face as well as lure them out onto the dance floor to join in on the fun. We love music and are very excited to be able to share our passion. We love playing for the local community because they are so supportive, and because we grew up here we know most everyone!

On the Web:

Acoustic Shadows

They say an acoustic shadow can cause sound to be refracted to an unexpected location similar to how light is transformed by mirage. Acoustic Shadows all-original jam band was born deep in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains.


Infectiously affable, Erik Rozite fronts the band with a signature conviction, that right hand in constant motion driving the rhythm on guitar. Lead guitarist, Zac Clow never breaks a sweat squeezing out the high wail, and Paul Stevens holds down some serious drum beats while “Wygz” William Van Kol keeps it cool and steady on bass. Jim Anderson (booty shakin’ percussion), and Brian Valentine (screamin’ harmonica) fill out the Acoustic Shadows sound, an intoxicating jambalaya of solid rock rhythm and atmospheric groove.

The group has released five CDs professionally recorded at local studios, and they are ever present in the mountains and performing at familiar venues all over the greater Santa Cruz area. The band is eager to share their “cask fermented and high times” Acoustic Shadows vibe!

On the Web:

Who’s Holdin’

Hailing from SLV and Santa Cruz, Who’s Holdin’ is a kick ass rock band that’s been around for over a decade creating an energetic, ultra-addictive sound!


Featuring Ian McDonough (vocals, guitar), Matt Harris (guitar, vocals), Troy Tano (horn, vocals, percussion), Morgan Monticue (bass), Zac Farmer (drums), Who’s Holdin’ promises “slammin’ rock, high energy, punk-tinted, groove- laced, thoughtful-fun music for partyin’, playin’, drivin’, downloadin’, home chillin’, layin’ around the pool drinkin’ and just about anything.”

On the Web:

Medicine Road

“Our theme is Native American rock centered on musical healing and positive energy. We feel our music is good medicine for the heart, soul, and body.”


Boulder Creek’s Medicine Road formed in 2008 and has been playing steadily ever since. We love every single song we do. How could a band play music just for someone else and not themselves? It’s the same as how can someone love you if you don’t love yourself? We love our music; therefore, we are putting out love in the most peaceful and loving way.

The medicine is the music, which heals the soul, nurtures the body’s need to move in a positive flow, and stimulates the brain to think about the positive change needed to heal ourselves and our planet. When viewing the earth from a distance, we look like ants with our ant hills, living close to each other to advance our ability to survive. Every living thing on this planet is sacred. Every living thing is exactly that, living. If you value life as a huge thing, then all things fall under that huge thing, ALIVE.

On the Web:

Grampa’s Chili

Born in the Bay Area and adopted by the Santa Cruz Mountains, this legendary group of players is more than a band; they’ve created their own community attracting generations of people from all over to their shows to groove together. Grampa’s Chili has a long history starting in the 1990s with original members from Old Dead Bug, The Bliss Ninnies, and Soup and they’ve kept a following of fans from the early days known collectively as the “Vibe Tribe.”


The current incarnation of Grampa’s Chili includes Mike Boston (vocals), Victor Manning (guitar, vocals), Jerry Brown (bass, vocals), Tom McQuillen (guitar), Michael Palladino (drums, vocals).

“Songs are like children, you can’t force them to be something they’re not, they’ve got to take their own direction.” The band has been going through a prolific period of writing new songs, and the new material wants to be played.

On the Web:

Crooked Branches

The Crooked Branches Band plays original music with lyrical influences ranging from soul to roots rock and country.  Their songs exhibit a blend of styles from their current home in the Santa Cruz Mountains and former homes in the Midwest, Southern states and Latin America.


The band has two members from San Jose, two from southern California, and one from Illinois. They now all reside in Santa Cruz County (three in the mountains and two in Santa Cruz) and play most shows in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Band member, Manny Steffen says, “My favorite thing about playing music in this band is that I get to hang out with four of my best friends…our friends, family and others who have come out to our shows have been so great in showing their support. They’re the best part of each of our shows.” The bass player recently got married among the redwoods here, and when they can, they partake in the local hiking and swimming hole action.

On the Web:

Rollin’ Hazard

Whiskey driven, heartbreak influenced, good time music, Rollin’ Hazard is an original country, alt-country outfit out of the Santa Cruz Mountains.



Including members, O.T. Duvall on 6-string flat top (also the band’s eye candy), Anders ‘Virginia Nasty’ Steele on Telecaster (with attitude), Ebin Lee on Bass, Boss Doss on drums, and the ghost of John Barleycorn as spiritual advisor.

On the Web:

(c) 2015 Julie Horner

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.


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Room for Cream – The Art of the Bean at Boulder Creek’s Goble Coffee Roasting

By Julie Horner

What better time to savor the divine than to head out on a gray mountain morning to Boulder Creek’s Goble Coffee Roasting outpost tucked neatly and oh-so-welcome inside Burger 9 across from Garrahan Park. I arrived in tandem with a couple of guys in a pickup stomping in from the damp for the daily grind. Americana and a drip. Another couple of guys arrived right on their heels, “Do you guys have Wi-Fi?” The woman manning the nozzles steamed and frothed, whirling among her cups while Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers danced on the flat-screen behind her. In short order everyone was settled, upper lips tipped with foam, tapping away on their handhelds and laptops, connected to the world.

Owners, Michael Goble and Kendra McQueen opened the outpost quietly several months ago. I noticed that buzz was building on the Nextdoor community website, so I asked to come out to sample a sip when they were ready.

Some might remember Michael as the ebullient barista at Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley. Musician friends and I had a regular Tuesday evening carpool over the hill for a gig and we’d meet at the Cat for a jolt. Mike artfully prepared our drinks, cheerfully exulting beans and grind.

Kendra remembers when the inkling occurred to start their own coffee roasting company. “I was in my third trimester and Mike said, ‘Let’s buy a roaster!’” When the opportunity opened up to share the space with the folks at Burger 9, they jumped on it. Kendra says she and Mike take turns running the shop and taking care of the kids, “It’s been great for our relationship and great for business, a way to find balance.”

Mainly it was an opportunity to be in control of their art. “The more you can make things by yourself, the better enjoyment-wise. It’s nice to have control of every little detail.”

They purchased the coffee cart from an old couple in Truckee, “totally mom and pop.” Now we’re The Coffee Lady and The Coffee Guy, just us two, and feeling very comfortable. The whole effort is as bootstrap as it gets – it’s all very organic – everything you see here is us.”

“We have so many ideas, we love the community. A lot of energy is going into that little cart, we don’t want to jump into anything and not finish it.”

Kendra and Mike make their own syrups, sauces, and flavorings from scratch. Mike is the master roaster. “Mike is the scientist in the family, he can tell you anything about coffee – he really gets into it.”

Mike knows what he’s doing and prioritized in the right places, like investing in a specific grinder. “That’s where it all starts, the grind. Mike’s dream is the beans – he wants you to ask him about the beans.” They buy the highest quality beans and roast them in incredibly small batches, hand processed from beginning to end. The drinks become an excellent way to “showcase the coffee.”

He points out that Santa Cruz has become known for its coffee, like its cannabis and craft beer. The concept of the “California coffee house” got its roots in the Bay Area from the folk music and politics of the 60s. “We live in an area where you have the time and resources to craft the product; the region really feeds on the slow foods movement. We get a lot of comparison to the wine industry with its appeal to the distinguishing pallet.”

“Once you elevate your taste for excellent coffee, the term ‘coffee snob’…it’s not a thing,” Mike says. “Anyone who drinks highly cared for coffee for a week will discover that it’s hard to go back to lesser quality.” GCR coffees are track-able and non-GMO. The coffee beans are selected from around the world, “down the mountain on a donkey to the docks, to the Port of Oakland and into your cup.”

When you bring beans home, “you don’t’ want to settle for off-the-shelf, for ‘dead coffee,’” once you realize what good coffee can do for you and how your body reacts to it. “My whole goal with this business, with this roasting: If you’re going to make coffee at home, why not make the best cup that you can.”

For folks on the go, Mike observes, “People are taking their time and being realistic about the time it takes to make the commitment to the commute. That’s what I love about living in the mountains. It’s a kind of meditation, we’re like-minded people. Commuters are obviously in a hurry, but a bad cup of coffee will ruin your day. Don’t settle. Let me bring you a pound – make the effort and it will change your day.”

Goble Coffee Roasting 15520 State Rte 9, Boulder Creek, CA 95006 (831) 205-9651
On the Web:
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(c) 2015 Julie Horner

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: On the Web:

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