I’m prone to saying that Sonoma County is God’s country. Whatever the season, ’tis gorgeous to behold, surrounded as we are by bucolic hills, whether green, golden or brown, the Pacific ocean in all its glittery, foggy glory, and of course, the never-ending bounty that the land so generously offers us. Recently, I was fortunate enough to experience all of this in one amazing package during a yoga retreat at the Lotus Feed Farm & Retreat.
The Lotus Feed is in the hills up above Occidental and Freestone, just off a road appropriately called Joy Road, for indeed, joy is to be found all around. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m often meeting people who have invested their heart, soul, passion, and probably their life savings, into make their dreams come true. Jenay Martin, daughter of the family behind Taylor Maid Farms – of local organic coffee and tea fame – is no exception. She single-handedly (to all intents and purposes) has made her dream of building and running a sustainable retreat center come true over the course of 11 years and this summer was the first year she has hosted residential guests.
Once you’ve navigated the somewhat vague directions, punched the four digit code into the big iron gate, crossed the requisite three cattle grids, passed through the vineyard and wound up a stony track to a grassy parking lot, it feels like you’ve arrived at the top of the world. Our visit was in the height of Indian summer with temperatures in the high 90s, and on this rare clear day we were able to spot the ocean sparkling away in the west. To the north were redwood and fir covered hills and below us a steep little path took us past the outdoor, passion flower-covered yoga deck, and down into the lower garden. This is where the meals are served – at a table big enough for about 60 people – complete with hay bales to sit on, and where the yurts and tents are located.
Our retreat was led by the wonderful Elise Lorimer, a former San Francisco-based teacher who more recently has moved to LA. 17 grateful students – happy to be reunited with this yogi – were with us (and yes, Monkey came too). It’s hard to point out the highlights of these too-short two days. There were really no low lights. From the idyllic pond – thankfully still offering some cool water – where we splashed around to rinse off the crazy heat, to practicing yoga to the sounds of nature: bird wings beating overhead; the insane chatter of the flock coming into roost at sunset or the cows mooing their heads off in the morning. The night-time sounds: owls hooting, coyotes howling, and possibly the sound of chickens being caught by a bob cat (there’s has to be a little trouble in paradise, right?). And showering outside under a huge oak tree and the never-ending blue sky. These are the moments that we live for.
And the food. Oh the food. Jenay is a marvel. Blonde. Quiet. Shy. Talented in the kitchen, and as Monkey said, someone who is clearly not afraid of hard work, she toiled day and night to keep us comfortable, fed and watered. Practically all the food is grown on the property from greens to tomatoes, eggs to apples. Working out of a small, almost hole-in-the-wall, Jenay turns out early morning smoothies which we guzzled down before our morning practice; a hearty brunch – typically eggs, waffles (gluten-free) or pancakes, fruit, salad, and more…. afternoon snacks, and a wonderfully filling and mouth-watering dinner. While we were there she fired up the pizza oven one evening and the other night made the most amazing quinoa cakes accompanied by roasted veggies, salad and a fruit crisp with ice cream. I mean… 3-4 hours of yoga a day really isn’t enough to work off all this food!
Like any good retreat, the environment, food and the teacher are all made better by the people you retreat with (and maybe from!). This time we got to reunite with some wonderful folks and made some new friends. The bliss that is Lotus Feed Farm was all too short, but we hope to be back next year. Perhaps for one of the big Lotus “Feeds” that Jenay puts on… yoga with 75 people followed by delicious, awesome, fresh food? Yes please!
Yoga teachers can contact Jenay Martin: