The Digger Farm
LOU: "One day I was all alone on the place, playing the
piano, and in came this car with Don and Sandy King, their dog
Tripper, Phil Brougham and Leni Brown. Phil said they had heard
about us from friends of Pam Millward's at Tolstoy Farm, a
communal family in the Northwest. They all asked if they could
stay. I took them on a tour of the ranch and made some sort of
deal like, 'Yeah, if you paint the kitchen in the Lower House' or
some dumb thing like that. Don said he would be delighted to do
that if they could stay, and so they all started living in the
Lower House. Leni and Phil never slept indoors anyway. Don and I
went down and got some paint and fixed up the kitchen, scraped
crud out from underneath the stove and so on."
Leni was a sixteen-year-old with a rebellious, fuck-you
attitude towards the world. Born of a black father and a Jewish
mother, she had run away from her progressive high school with
Phil, one of her teachers. However she carried a letter of
permission from her mother.
LOU: "Leni Brown was one of the great gurus of all time.
She was the first real 'Impossible' that I ever met, and since
then I've become one, so I know what 'Impossible' is. Her first
lesson to me came around the question of body odor. She had, ah,
worked up more than a hint of funk, shall we say. In those days I
was terribly straight, so I took her to Sebastopol and bought her
a chocolate eclair and a plastic bottle of Mennen's deodorant
with more than a hint that she use it. She was furious, of
course. There was another girl at the ranch named Kris who said,
'Don't you think that Leni smells better than this stuff?' I
said, 'No. Do you?' And she said, 'Yes!'"
RAMON: "Leni managed to annoy almost everybody with her
temper tantrums and screaming sessions except a crazy, beautiful
young woman named Araby who, upon her arrival, immediately joined
Leni in liberating us from incipient stodginess. After a couple
of screaming contests at the Upper House during which they stood
on the sundeck emitting bloodthirsty screeches just for the hell
of it, I asked Phil and Leni to leave. Leni suggested that I
leave instead, so I packed up and moved into the barn. I built a
stove out of an old oildrum with the help of a hatchet as well as
a bed and yoga platform."
When Leni went to the community hospital with a yeast
infection, the combination of her age, color and ailment shocked
the doctor and he alerted the police. Shortly afterwards,
Inspector Paul Stefani of the Narcotics Division paid Morning
Star the first of many visits.
"Nice place to drop acid," he mentioned affably to
Ramon who tried to steer the conversation around to yoga and
He didn't stay long, but his visit gave warning that Morning
Star was now on the authorities' map. Later that year, Stefani
was interviewed by the local Santa Rosa newspaper, The Press
"There are now one thousand hippies living in Sonoma
County," he was quoted as saying. "They're scattered in
small households and four large colonies. They don't think we
know about them but we do and we're going to know more."
RAMON: "Stefani's visit added to my feeling that Morning
Star was no longer anonymous enough for me. I always have had a
fear of cops and uniforms stemming from my childhood experiences
in Civil War Spain, and definitely did not want to have to worry
about being busted. So Gina, Katy the Dog and I moved off the
ranch. We rented a small four-room cabin in Bodega Bay from the
Santa Rosa Fire department for forty dollars a month, about a
twenty-minute drive. After moving, I carved a sign for the
ranch's front gate with the American Indian insignia for the
Morning Star and Mother Mira's twelve-petalled lotus in the
center. Around it I inscribed 'Morning Star Solar Legation and
Economic Council.' I felt we were an embassy from the sun to
represent solar consciousness on the planet, and thus could claim
diplomatic immunity from local laws. The 'Economic Council' was
Lou's idea. The sign lasted two or three weeks before it was
LOU: "During March I received a phone call from the
Diggers who had heard that there was an apple orchard on the
place. They expected a quarter of a million homeless teenagers
that summer and they wanted to have apples for them. 'Could we
send a detachment up to take care of the orchard in return for
the apples?' they asked. I said, 'Don't call me, I'll call you.'
But then I did call them and said, 'Okay, it's sounds
RAMON: "Lou and I talked over the Diggers' request during
one of my visits. I liked the Diggers I had met. They had some
definite concepts about working for the people's benefit and
about providing as many services as possible for free. It wasn't
a question of as cheaply as possible. It was FOR FREE."
BIG MIKE: "One day there was a big happening in Golden
Gate park at Speedway Meadows. There were rock bands and everyone
sat around, smoking grass, drinking wine and dropping acid. So
this kid came up with this great bunch of balloons -- some guy
had put him to work selling balloons filled with helium. He
wasn't selling too many -- it was a free concert, you know. This
one Digger told the kid he wasn't interested in a balloon but
that he'd turn him on to some grass. The kid said, 'What's that?'
'Here, try some,' the Digger said. 'I'll hold your balloons.' So
while the kid was getting loaded, the Digger said, 'Shit, the
balloons should be free too -- it's all free!' And he let them go
to the applause and cheers of the crowd. Somehow it didn't matter
to the kid at this point either."
GINA: "It happened very fast. After the first wave of
Diggers came to Morning Star, we attracted many wonderful,
marvelous people. Word got around quickly about the 'Digger
farm.' Ramon and I liked the new energies and made plans to move
back. It seemed that the more people that came, the happier
everyone was. Of course it was a big change from a quiet, private
sort of place, but you just went along with it because it was the
spirit of the times.
"We had not too many people and not too few, about sixty
which was just right for the land. All of them were immersed in
spiritual pursuits, strong and beautiful, not messed up. It was
about that time that Swami Bhaktivedenta visited. He was just
becoming wellknown as a leader of the Krishna movement. Some of
the people at Morning Star were already singing the 'Hare
Krishna' mantra. For the Swami's visit, we set up a temple in the
orchard and made him a flowery throne. It was an exquisite spring
day, the air soft and clear, the blossoms on the apple trees, the
birds singing like something out of a fairy-tale. A large crowd
greeted him. He spoke and began chanting 'Krishna' while everyone
danced and sang. We absolutely floated in bliss. He was a really
great teacher because he just became one of us. It was a great
experience of springtime and love of God."
The burgeoning population and the flow of curiosity- seekers
attracted the renewed attention of the police.
LOU: "We were warned by the fink who had come to set us
up. The Saturday before the first of April, we were all working
in the garden, and a man by the name of Dennis Thoreau Poret
walked up and said, 'I am now doing time in the Sonoma County
Jail. They told me to come out here and gather evidence for a
search warrant to set you guys up for a bust. So that's what I'm
doing.' Of course six hippies immediately turned him on, and then
he went back to jail, having done his duty. Now it was my
impression this was the Mother Force in action, you see, because
to my recollection, I have not yet heard of a case where the fink
told the mark. There have been people who have said 'Yes, they
were trying to get me to set up Allen Ginsberg' and things like
that, but this was a unique case.
"The guy they sent was a very beautiful man, very nice,
and since we had a week to prepare for the raid, it didn't take
any great perspicacity to be clean on Saturday night. Also, there
was rarely any sacrament on the place because when it arrived, it
Sure enough, in came Inspector Stefani and gang on Saturday
night. They spread out all over the ranch, shaking everyone down,
but not finding anything except an ancient paper of speed someone
had forgotten in his wallet.
LOU: "They came into my place, and I had the most
unfortunate experience of having my personal effects rifled.
That's very unpleasant. 'What's this? Let's take that!' -- and
looking through my phone book. I had an old leather tobacco pouch
where I used to keep my stash. I had smoked it all, or did
something with it, and then had taken the vacuum cleaner and
vacuumed it out, but the smell was still there. A cop held the
pouch under Stefani's nose and said, 'Smell that!' Also I had one
of those little vials that had contained some 'blue juice' and
there was just a little, teensy snippet of a corner left. Stefani
found the vial -- it was the first thing he reached for -- and
said, 'What's that?' I said, 'It's ink eradicator.' And Stefani
looked at me, his head to one side, and said, 'Were you guys
tipped off or something?'
STEFANI: "The first time I went out (to Morning Star) I
was charmed. I came back to the office and kidded the guys that I
wasn't going to be around much longer -- I was going to defect.
Then I went out there a few more times and began to wonder, to
see the other side, the great danger of a couple of
LSD trips. There were IBM operators out there, teachers, and
people of education who took LSD and other hallucinogens. It
became a religion. They give up their jobs, careers and futures
and they they are happy. But their gentleness is a veneer and
quickly shed. I stepped on a tomato plant and an enraged hippie
girl called me a dirty bastard, threatening to bust me out of the
place... Lou Gottlieb is a likeable guy, but has not cooperated
with us. I imagine I've been out there fifty times and instead of
cooperation I get obstruction and questions."
The new wave of arrivals that spring included Pam and Larry
Reed with their golden-haired one-year-old Adam Siddartha.
PAM: "I came to Morning Star because I wanted to live on
a farm (I was brought up in the country). Previously I was
working as a dancer and model in San Francisco so that we could
eat. Larry had heard about the ranch from the Diggers, and we
rode up with one of them for the weekend. We stayed a week, and
then went back to the city and got our stuff. I worked for a
couple of days to get money to contribute to the ranch before
coming back to Morning Star to stay.
"All during my childhood I wanted to be an actress, and I
studied drama in college. But I had already changed my mind about
ana acting career by the time I came to Morning Star. My only
goal by then was to find a way to live, to take care of my child
and husband, eat fairly regularly and not be caught in the city.
At Morning Star I experienced consciousness-expansion in daily
living unequaled in my life before or since. Telepathic occurences, dreams in common with other people, telepathy in
conversations. I nearly always dream about Morning Star at
LOU: "Pam Reed is one of the most extraordinary people
this world has ever produced. The first time I can actually
remember Pam was one morning I was down cooking breakfast at the
Lower House, and the mouth began talking about brahmacharya --
celibacy. Pam just started to cry. That was her only comment, you
know, she just wept uncontrollably. Both Pam and Cindy had no
wardrobe. They were never caught with any clothes on that summer,
that's for sure. Those two were the first militant nudists I had
ever known in my life, and very well equipped for the role, I
Digger Cindy, a tiny brunette from Massachusetts whose
delicate features were balanced by her tough no-nonsense
attitude, organized the kitchen and took on the responsibility
for feeding the hundreds of guests.
RAMON: "A female karma yogini was worth her weight in miso, especially Cindy. What with half the men on the place in
love with her, she had a willing line of male volunteers for any
task. Morning Star, in the lap of the Divine Mother, suffered
badly from male ego trips. It's too bad the women weren't put
completely in charge."
David and Penny Pratt built a multi-storied treehouse in a
redwood tree that was a true masterpiece. A talented artist,
David painted the backs of many Levi jackets that summer with
Buddha's face and other religious themes.
DAVID: "Living on the street in San Francisco, young,
dumb, idealistic, I heard about the 'Digger ranch.' I went to
investigate -- no other options, and found out it wasn't a Digger
ranch at all but something else, 'Digger' being basically a
political, East Coast concept. In contrast, Morning Star was
basically an evolutionary experiment, much groping by mostly
immature young people. What was going on? If you took it from the
top, it was a divine drama with people like me who didn't have
anything better to do as the actors. God was trying out a new
scenario, a possibility for the master plan of the future, just
seeing if it would work."
'Superman' materialized from realms of spare-change sidewalk
adventures, popping pills he claimed to have found in the
gutters. Claiming ancient Egyptian ancestry, he amazed everyone
by writing hieroglyphics in a perfect hand as well as endlessly
complaining about how horny he was. It turned out he was a
thirty-nine-year-old virgin, and finally some compassionate
sister initiated him into manhood to everyone's immense relief.
GINA: "Many journalists came to the ranch, but the only
one I happened to talk to was the Time Magazine reporter which
'immortalized' me. He liked me and listened to what I said. Many
of the reporters were looking for 'yellow journalism' stuff, but
the Time reporter was trying hard to understand. He had a very
open, positive attitude.
"We believed in publicity because we felt we had to tell
the world that this kind of experience was possible. We weren't
recommending it for everyone, but we wanted to show that it was
an option. We had had some bad experiences where the wrong people
had met the interviewers and had not made a good impression. So
this time Ramon and I decided to meet with the reporter
ourselves. He loved the ranch from the moment he got there. It
was a good day, sunny and comparatively quiet. A lot of beautiful
naked girls were running around, Cindy in her Indian costume.
Even though people didn't wear clothes, there was a great purity
about it -- like the Garden of Eden. It was an innocent thing,
and there were no great sex orgies or anything like that. A
childlike experience, really. So we walked around together with
the man. I was feeling very verbal and particularly happy that
day. He listened to everything we told him. Of all the publicity
Morning Star received, I think his was the best. He really caught
the feeling of it. We took him down to see Pam and Larry Reed and
their son Adam Siddartha, a beautiful blond little boy, just a
dream of a child."
TIME: "An hour's drive north of San Francisco, in
apple-growing country near Sebastopol along the Russian River,
some 30 to 50 country hippies live on a 31-acre ranch called
Morning Star. Their closest neighbor: cartoonist Charles Shulz,
whose 'Peanuts' people are hippie favorites. The ranch is owned
by Lou Gottlieb, 43... who has his hippie followers hard at work
-- rarest of all hippie trips -- growing vegetables for the San
"Most Morning Star colonists avoid acid. 'I'd rather have
beautiful children than beautiful visions,' says a tanned,
clear-eyed hippie girl named Gina. That hippies can actually work
becomes evident on a tour of the commune's vegetable gardens.
Cabbages and turnips, lettuce and onions march in glossy green
rows, neatly mulched with redwood sawdust. Hippie girls lounge in
the buffalo grass, sewing colorful dresses or studying Navajo
sand painting, clad in nothing but beads, bells and feather
headdresses. (Not everyone is a nudist -- only when they feel
like it.) A shaggy sheepdog named Grass plays with the hippies'
children, among them a straw-thatched 17-month-old boy named Adam Siddartha.
"The new-found trip of work and responsibility reflected
in the Morning Star experiment is perhaps the most hopeful
development in the hippie philosophy to date."
LOU: "That Time article was really when it hit the fan.
People came pouring in from everywhere. I know of one young man
who read the article as an inmate of a New York mental hospital.
He split for Morning Star that same day saying, 'This is what I'm
looking for and these are the people I want to be with.' His
father had been paying a hundred dollars a day for his treatment.
At Morning Star he got it for free." The flower children of
the Summer of Love flocked to San Francisco with all the fervor
of pilgrims to Mecca. A teenage girl named Near, idealistic and
voluptuous, joined that throng. A bad psychedelic trip in the
city rendered her incapable of smiling. Meeting Larry Reed in the Haight-
Ashbury, she followed him up to the ranch a few days
NEAR: "My ride let me off at the parking lot a few hours
before sunset. I walked up the dusty path to the center of the
ranch, the well and the campfire circle. A tall, buxom woman was
sitting on a log beside the fire rocking a one-year-old boy in
her lap. It was Beatrice with Andr. For the first time in a
month I smiled. I knew instantly I was home. I asked Beatrice
where I could find Larry. She pointed vaguely down the hill. A
glowing blond-bearded man came along and guided me to Larry's
house, a platform on a treestump. Larry was standing beside it
whittling on a pole. Pam sat inside playing with Adam Siddartha.
Larry hugged and kissed me before introducing me to Pam and Adam
Sid. I was a bit shocked to discover that Larry had a wife and a
baby. I had assumed from our fun night in the city together that
he was single. However Pam welcomed me and beamed a friendly
"It was time for supper, so Larry guided me to the Lower
House. Pam decided to stay home with Adam Sid, and Larry promised
to bring back some food. We found about fifteen people gathered
on the back porch. Lou Gottlieb had cooked the dinner, and a
silent blonde girl named Penny had baked some 'macro' bread. The
group held hands and enjoyed a minute of silence. Then Lou served
each a portion of rice and broccoli. The folks were friendly, and
took an interest in the new girl, but Larry made it clear I was
staying with him. After dinner, he led me back to his little
house. I wasn't quite ready to jump into bed with a married man,
his wife and baby, but Pam assured me it was perfectly all right.
Larry lay in the middle and made passionate love to me. Then he
gave Pam a kiss and fell asleep. I didn't, as I was a little
bewildered, and also not used to going to sleep at nine p.m.
"The next morning at sunrise, we were gently awakened by
someone distributing LSD to everyone. Larry, Pam and I each
swallowed a tab. Then Larry made love to me again. When we had
finished, he turned to Pam and started getting it on with her.
Meanwhile I took Adam Sid for a walk to the Lower House where
pancakes and whole wheat cereal were cooking. After breakfast, we
gathered in the barnyard to sunbathe nude."
Bill, an ex-Catholic priest, lived in the orchard with sixteen
little Mexican chihuahuas that yapped all the time. He was
nicknamed 'Deputy Dog' by someone. And of course 'Nevada' showed
up, one of Lou's 'Impossibles.' A muscular triple Scorpio and
supposedly one-time California rodeo champ, he brought with him
an endless supply of Korean War stories which he relived in
drunken detail whenever he could find an audience. Equipped with
a voice which could penetrate any barrier, Nevada would find the
listener's soft spot and zero in with unerring precision. You
don't like drunks? Loud voices?
"How about Jesus, asshole? Have you talked to your
Savior? Naw, I mean your Savior! YOUR SAVIOR, MOTHERFUCKER!!!
D'you understand? I mean, DO YOU UNDERSTAND??"
Nevada's truck looked as if it had hit every telephone pole in
the county. Calamities clustered around him, but he always
emerged unscathed. One day his truck lost its brakes coming up
the front driveway. It rolled backwards down the hillside and
across the parking lot before coming to a halt with its rear
wheels hanging over a twelve-foot drop onto Graton Road. Nevada's
backwards rush into oblivion had been halted by a few strands of
RAMON: "With Nevada's and his outrageous
friends' arrival, the noise levels on the ranch tripled. What to
do? Society's problems were coming to the Divine Mother to be
healed, and no one was willing to stand in the way of whatever it
was that was happening."