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Down on the Farm in Philo


Down on the Farm in Philo

October 10, 2012

It's disarming to roll up to the Philo Apple Farm in Northern California and discover that it's an actual working farm. It's not the apple orchards, chickens, goats, horses, and Jersey cow that throws one off, but the pea gravel terrace, the outdoor iron chandelier, the trailing jasmine, and the succulents in terra cotta pots that read rustic retreat rather than down-on-the-farm. This is my kind of farm.

Don and Sally Schmitt bought the run down property in 1982, discovered when they were checking out the Anderson Valley. They were running The French Laundry at the time, (the restaurant they began when the Napa Valley was still a quiet backwater), so they enlisted their daughter Karen and her husband, Tim Bates, to run the farm. In 1994, when the Schmitts sold their restaurant to Thomas Keller, they joined them. Over a quarter century on and the now bio-dynamic farm is self sustaining with three generations running it, (two of the Bates' daughters have returned to work on the farm).

There are four cottages to accommodate guests, as well as a room above the main building that overlooks the kitchen garden. Throughout the year, Karen Bates runs cooking classes, which are well known among foodies. For information, go to Philo Apple Farm. To learn more about the apples, see our Gardenista post: California's Best Apples.

And if this all seems a little too rustic, there is the Boonville Hotel nearby—run, of course, by Karen's brother Johnny Schmitt.

Photography by Sarah Lonsdale for Remodelista.

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Above. Succulents displayed on a tree stump.

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Above: One of the four cottages located in the apple orchard.

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Above: The potting shed that leads off the kitchen.

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Above: The dining room doors open on to a deck.

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Above; The kitchen where the cooking classes are held. The dresser shelves hold some of Karen's favorite redware pottery from Joel Huntley in Wisconsin.

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Above: The dining table.

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Above: The office with the family's aprons hanging.

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Above. A shelf displaying a pottery collection. The farm is full of small vignettes created by Karen, a trait she inherited from her mother, Sally, whose artistic outlet was expressed through physical objects.

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Above: Throughout the property there are small enclaves for gathering, this one under the shade of trees.

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Above: Freshly picked apples ready for eating.

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Above. The sunken garden next to the pea graveled outdoor dining area.

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Above: Apples ready for picking.

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Above: Outdoor seating created from repurposed apple crates.

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Above: A picnic table in the orchard.

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Above: Cora, the Jersey cow that provides the farm with milk and yogurt.

Looking for more places to stay in Northern California? Check out our Wine Country finds.

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