Chandler’s involvement with the Long Meadow landscape extended beyond the outdoor décor; he designed the dining table and chairs and, as he’s a noted sculptor, he created the decorative metalwork chess pieces. They’re heavier than the wooden pieces the Halls saw on their European trip, so the wind won’t blow them down the hillside; yet they’re lightweight enough for children to move. As Chandler describes it, "The chess set was a whimsical addition to the garden, a part of the design that was intentionally sculptural, but the Halls got caught up in the idea of it, and now use it regularly." The pizza oven, too, was an early idea, but it was put on the back burner. It was originally intended for the new kitchen, but Laddie was concerned that it would make the room too warm, so she opted for the outdoor position, where it is the centerpiece of the elegantly proportioned pergola-covered patio.
Inevitably, it’s the younger guests at the Halls’ frequent cookouts who most appreciate the garden’s many activities. While their parents tend to the pizzas going in and coming out of the oven, they entertain themselves quite happily. Meanwhile, the ingredients for build-your-own pizzas are moving by the basketful from garden to kitchen, into an array of bowls, and then onto the outdoor prep table. "We take advantage of what’s in the garden to make seasonal pizzas," says Laddie. Besides the expected tomatoes and herbs, this can include eggs and figs. Christopher and his girlfriend, Jen Daly, explain: "Our friend, Steven Peyer, who owns a pizza restaurant, makes a delicious herb pizza with a fresh egg broken into the center. The yolk should still be runny when it comes out of the oven. And prosciutto with figs and fresh goat cheese make another great combination."
Main-course pizzas are served with a variety of seasonal salads. All dressed, of course, with Long Meadow’s own olive oils, which are treated more as condiments than ingredients. The top grade, Prato Lungo ("Long Meadow" in Italian) Extra Virgin, is the most expensive, with a pronounced black-pepper warmth. "It is a ‘finishing oil’; just drizzle it over the food as it comes to the table," advises Laddie. "And use just a sprinkle of sea salt—no grinds from the pepper mill." Long Meadow’s other oil, Napa Valley Select, is the oil made for blending with vinegars and other flavorings for marinades and dressings.
Long Meadow’s award-winning oils are produced from trees that are at least 100 years old. While clearing second-growth forest in readiness for grapevine planting, Ted discovered a grove of old,
neglected olive trees. Careful pruning helped their rehabilitation, and their number has been supplemented over the years by new trees. Some of the old-timers, however, were transferred to the garden around the house, providing much-needed shade around the kitchen and helping to give presence and age to the new garden.
Sitting on their terrace with morning coffee and the day’s newspapers spread around them, Ted and Laddie survey the sunrise over Long Meadow. "We start our days here and often finish them here, too. We’ll gather around the table with glasses of wine and some appetizers, enjoying the changing colors of the hills and meadow as the sun sets, watching the wildlife; there is so much activity out there," says Laddie, reflecting on their evening relaxation.
Ted and Laddie describe the origins of the Long Meadow enterprise as a fantasy they shared with their young sons—of living off the land, producing their own food, and putting back what they took out. "We just wanted to show that it’s possible to produce world-class food and wine using sustainable, organic methods," says Ted with conviction. "Long Meadow Ranch isn’t about evangelical environmentalism. Our farming and production practices are based on good, old-fashioned, common sense." Amen to that.