Growing up in a small farming community east of Sacramento, my father use to take my brothers and me to a small river inlet which we called the “Sloughhouse”. What I remember most wasn’t the muddy river that we played in, but the surrounding fields of hop vines (Google “hop field” and you will see an amazing structured network of vertical vines). Apparently, beer hops were once the largest agricultural crops in Northern California before Prohibition all through the 1950’s.
Recently, I had the opportunity to redesign the gardens for an old vineyard in Sonoma County near the Russian River that was once a premiere hop farm called Walter Ranch Hop Kiln. I spent two days wandering the site to take in the history and natural ecology of the region. Being at the site from sunrise through sunset reminded me of those childhood days at the slough. Here are a few photographs of the main focal point of the vineyard, the Hop Kiln.