THE FARM CENTER ~ Carmel Valley Magic – 5 miles inland


This blog below was written over five years ago.  The Farm Center has so dramatically changed nothing about it is recognizable.  Everyone who made it beautiful, including me, has moved out.  I had a remarkable four years there. It was once all magic. There just isn’t anything left.


is a charming small magical island with more wide-open space around us than people ~~ between the ocean.  It’s half way, only miles inland, sun-filled and delightful. There’s a huge, welcoming meadow DSCF3438for walking next to the Carmel River (path next to the bridge) where Steelhead run, ducks bob. Condor, Hawks, Heron, Seagulls, Wrens, Blue Jays, Crows fill sky and tree….the ancient live oak, the Redwood, Aspen, Willow trees. Every side road is decked with reeds, flowering trees, Magnolias, Cherry, Pear, Apple, Plum. Deer roam in day and mountain lions stalk nights along the river banks.  Before heading further out to the Village for vineyards and wine tasting, before the cattle of Cachagua and just past the shopping center, is THE FARM CENTER and GRANGE.

   THE FARM CENTER Farm CenterFarm Center just before thRobinson Canyon, newis the oldest building in Carmel Valley (And Jack London Slept There)  It’s closed right now, used to be occupied by a wonderful sculptor named Paul, some of his sculptings and his gardens remain on view. THE FARM CENTER is a small group of fabulous little SHOPS just a few feet off Carmel Valley Road beyond the Safeway Shopping Center. Angels, Dancing on TreetopsIn it you will find Char ETIENNE ANTIQUES FOR HOME AND GARDEN(she also designs landscaping) with exquisite things and has a spectacular back garden to wander through.

Then DSCF4194THE HAWKS PERCH GALLERY, the only art gallery in mid-Valley and the best on the Central Coast!  And I also carry Ron Wohlauer Photographs. Run by the  EXPRESSIONIST PAINTER ~~me~~ BARBARA SPARHAWK.  I accept portrait commissions of people and animals, SIGNS of any kind made to order.  I sell my own beautiful oil paintings of Big Sur Kitchen, Rabbit Vase and PoppiesFLORALS and LANDSCAPES and PORTRAITS, WATERCOLORS, PEN & INKS, and imaginings at unimaginably low prices!  I want everyone in the world to own a Sparhawk Original.  Heron-Otter on Wind, Night Sky, Pfeiffer Beach

Next to THE HAWKS PERCH gallery is the most extraordinary. In their huge backyard gardens and fountains, a walk through will lea


Farm Center2Hthe meadow is DSCF3700BOB MATTSON’S SADDLERY.  Bob has been here over 25 years.  He’s a master craftsman with leather.  He’ll not only repair your saddle, or sell you a spectacular one for a great price, he’ll make you a belt or knife-sheath, soften up old reins, sell you a saddle blanket.  His shop is an incredible delight to all the senses, a step back in time, a feel of the world of horses before cars. SEE WHAT YOU’VE BEEG! 

THE F used to be all grain and feed and the best place to get your Levi’s.  We still get visitors looking for jeans and hay. It’s gone through a lot of transforming over the years, and it’s better all the time.  Stop in for a visit!  Worth the trip and the sun is always shining.Dawn April Facing EastFarm Center3THE FARM CENTER SHOPS, MID-VALLEY



Calla Lilies and Leaf, InteriorOriginal Oil Paintings by SPARHAWK

EXPRESSIONIST ARTIST BARBARA SPARHAWK is famous for being the only female scaffold hauling BILLBOARD PAINTER in the world in the ’70’s (mostly over Times Square) and painting the ROLLING STONE’S WORLD TOUR BILLBOARD ALBUM COVER ‘MADE IN THE SHADE’. She was commissioned to paint a portrait of WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR from sittings; her work has been exhibited at QUANTICO ACADEMY.  She is the author and illustrator of a book of short stories (THE GANDY DANCER) and a children’s book (COCO NO!) with more to come! In a NY career of journalism and politics, SPARHAWK wrote evening news for CBS, ABC, FOX TV, produced ROCKANDROLLA and TALK RADIO shows for WABC and WOR; and was PRESS SECRETARY TO US CONGRESSWOMAN GERALDINE FERRARO, and family CHEF to the Beach Boys Jardine Family.  That’s the short version.




The Gate


There is the human business of coming to a gate

Bower, Potato vine, Madiera, Cecil Bruner, Meadow, April 2013from the known path

April 2013 Garden Gate

where nothing is required but a glance from safety. 

But what if you tug

Open Gate to Bridge

that wooden door.

So may you touch

  the unknown

Rose bower from outsideon the other side

Walkway East Dawnand thusly will your questing hand guide your magic heart

Pride of Madiera East Dawn

and you will hear the land whisper:  We waited.

Confessions of a Gardener Who Begins to See the Light

I’ve had the garden meadow studio about a year. Well established, beautiful old plants of myriad form and color here, firmly rooted and full of surprise. But there have also been years of austere pruning leading to squared off, cut to the knee, flat-topped geometrics on everything in sight including ornamental grasses.  Not so much a south of the border big-hearted flower-loving gardener as one local noted when her rambling rose up the side of her office was trimmed to, well, a flowerless twelve-inch stub in the dust. The grounds guy is more Aztec invader with machete and weed-wacker. Not a visionary.

My garden is separated off the common path by high hedges, down a flight of stairs, bordered by a silvery-yellow meadow that folds in to the Carmel River’s steep and wooded banks. To the industrial-strength gardener it is MINE…forbidden territory. Do Not Enter Here.  I’m up for whimsy, wild shapes, curves, arches, bowers, and Let’s See What The Plant Will Do.

Saddest of all to see one year ago was one stunner of a cherry tree only recognizable by its distinctive bark. The hint at its possible size was its neat system of living trunks, 4 ~ 6 inches in diameter, horizontally cut at about five to six feet up, desperate sprouts shooting tentatively upward to the ghost of its former self. And the neighbor who remembered its enormity of size in the olden days, branches weighted with blossoms in spring and a great crop of summer cherries. It’s been a year.Cherry Tree, Meadow, MARCH 2013

I begin to see that I spent the first spring and summer clearing out the dead underbrush of everything, pruning back hedge at ground level and around tree bottoms to expose the gorgeous old rock walls and pathways, and studying how to circumvent field mice and gophers. New heretofore unknown plants have risen from the now well-watered dust. I discovered a fantastic willowy kind of shrub planted deep in a Dixie cup! that through the miracle impulse toward life was growing larger even blooming. It has bright red and white petals on tiny blossoms. Now it’s in a huge pot, renewed, in full sun, thrilling to see. Cherry Tree Dawn

Under the bespoke cherry tree is a massive Bird of Paradise DSCF3405that had been crushed against dead branches, struggling through weeds. This spring it’s already twice the size it was. When rain hits those long, broad leaves there’s music, a drumbeat. Gardens are audio, too.

The Bird of Paradise is bordered on the patio side by a Breath of Heaven, that delightfully airy bush with teeny pink flowers. A year ago it was dying, flowerless, cut back to three feet high. Now it’s a breezy, a constantly in motion, a heading over five feet blossom-filled spectacular, which I regularly embrace (the gardener’s feather boa) and inhale.

I’ve made a kind of corner potting shed with boards set up on saw horses surrounded by pots clippers, trowels. I love the changes taking place and how much I am unexpectedly part of that.

The thing is, I see it’s like painting. And possibly true of any creative endeavor whereby you get to watch what your brain and heart and soul are up to. Look at that! kind of moments, not knowing previously how you actually thought about it but knew what you knew. 

And plants, as well as pigment and canvas, are happy cooperatives in the process, and are saying simultaneously, Look at that! Why, I had no idea.

I’ve started a book with illustrations, paintings and drawings, handwritten notations in India ink alongside, to document my experience with my garden. I’m giving myself through to November to complete the work because I want to go into the die-back stages and how that feels and what it means to see and be in, as well as lush, endlessly colorful summer. It’s going to include a lot of bright, high-color paintings.

If you’d like to contribute to the Sparhawk’s Meadow Garden book emergence and self-publication by Christmas, please send a contribution to the Hawks Perch Gallery. Any size will help. You’ll get a hand-calligraphied, signed receipt in return, from me, and any amount over $25 guarantees a free copy as well! There is a great deal to be said for gardening that lands in so many internal human places, and I intend to investigate, to discover some of that, and print it up.




I’d like to add that I had not considered this til I got to the near end of the page, wondered how I’d get it done and remembered that Audubon achieved publishing his books by inviting Subscriber Contributions in advance. Helping him to eat and keep the home fire burning while he painted those beautiful North American birds. Suddenly seemed like an excellent idea!  Thanks in advance for faith and hope, and charity toward artistic endeavors.