The High-Tech Hobbits of Trout Gulch
At Trout Gulch, an intentional community outside of Santa Cruz, California, internet savvy meets the DIY life to create a vision of the future.
There are several small outbuildings at Trout Gulch, including a tool shop, guest room, an old trailer, a hoophouse for starting plants, and goat paddocks.
In the mountains outside Santa Cruz, California, an intentional community is under construction. On 10 hilly acres in Aptos, three filmmakers and their friends have established a sort of rural hackerspace where the guiding philosophy can be summed up in three letters: DIY. The utopian outpost is called Trout Gulch.
“We’re building a 21st-century hobbit village in which things are extremely bucolic and integrated into nature, but we’re also embracing the best of technology,” says 29-year-old Isaiah Saxon, who grew up on the property and returned with two filmmaking buddies, Sean Hellfritsch and Daren Rabinovitch.
This back-to-the-land trio has a digital animation company called Encyclopedia Pictura.
Ever since they made a big splash with a music video for Icelandic pop diva Bjork, there’s been a steady stream of offers to work on videos and commercials. So far they’ve only agreed to work on two.
“We’ll only do advertisements for products we use,” explains Saxon. “We could certainly be maximizing our potential to make money right now, but that would hinder and slow down the development of this neighborhood that we’re building. It would take us on a road to possibly an empty existence.”
Their existence now might strike some as downright idyllic. Visitors to the compound are immediately taken by the outdoor kitchen and dining area. The food prep and eating is done under a 1,000-square-foot canopy made from redwood logs and corrugated roofing. For baking, there’s an igloo-shaped cob oven built out of earth, chunks of broken concrete, and cement. A large redwood slab serves as a kitchen counter.
Their refrigerator, also outdoors, is actually a commercial freezer that was being discarded by neighbors. Like so many of the hacks and mods done here, the Trout Gulch boys learned how to do the conversion on the web.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the internet in the lives of Hellfritsch, Saxon, and Rabinovitch.
“We’re self-taught in every possible area,” says Saxon. “To go from complete ignorance on a subject to execution of a project within a week is pretty normal here.”
You might expect an internet-savvy crew like Hellfritsch, Saxon, and Rabinovitch to have tons of computer gear, but the Encyclopedia Pictura office at Trout Gulch, currently located in Saxon’s mother’s house, basically consists of three modest worktables with MacBook Pros.
At the moment, there are several small outbuildings at Trout Gulch, including a tool shop, guest room, an old trailer, a hoophouse for starting plants, and goat paddocks. The compound has outdoor showers and a composting toilet.
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