Wilder Ranch

On a foggy morning, most mornings are foggy in the summer, I headed northbound on Highway 1. My destination was just out of the city limits of Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park.

Wilder Ranch is a former dairy ranch on the coast. In 1871, two partners Baldwin and Deloss D. Wilder bought 4,160 acres of the a former rancho. In 1885 the partners split the acres in half and for the the next century the Wilder family farmed the land and their farm was prosperous enough to build a new Victorian farm house in 1897. The Wilder family farmed until 1969 when the farm became unprofitable.

The property became part of the State Park system in 1974. The park today includes 7,000 acres and is visited by hikers, mountain bikers, and birders. And a few sketchers too.

The closer I got to the coast, the thicker the fog. Fog and watercolor don’t always go together.

I parked on Highway One and headed down to the historic ranch buildings of Wilder Ranch. While most people hike or mountain bike on the 35 miles of trails of Wilder, I set up my camp chair in front of the Horse Barn.

This is a rather fancy barn, looking almost more like a house than a barn. Today this barn no longer houses horses but the interior provides a substrate for a bird’s nest, the appropriately named barn swallow. This year’s swallow fledglings where perched on the wires and buildings of the farmstead. I made sure to sketch a few in on the wires before they flew off on newly fledged wings.

After I finished sketching the horse barn, I walked a few hundred yards to get a vantage point of the Victorian farm house with the palm tree in the background. For this sketch I keep things a little loose, urban sketching style. For example I kept the sketch of the vegetation loose, and focused on the details and perspective of the house. I carried this over to the watercolor, I only painted the farmhouse and the roof in the foreground.

On my way out, I did a quick sketch of the scarecrow. The scarecrow was wearing proper face protection and was social distancing. There was not another scarecrow in sight! Nor a crow for that matter.

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