This photo shows our original farmhouse as it was in 1930. There was an earlier, probably temporary, house built by Frank and Mildred DeMent, but it was torn down. The strong sunlight is probably the eastern face. There was no fireplace at this point, and you can see a water tower, although there was no indoor plumbing.
This photo is possibly from 1949, when 29 Palms received a historic 19" of snow. Now you can see the fireplace, and the trees described by Jacqueline DeMent surrounding the farmhouse.
This is how our farmhouse looks today. A deep porch was added to the house, probably around the east and south edges. Eventually it was enclosed, so the fireplace is now in the interior of the house.
Frank DeMent planting palms in the front yard. The lakebed is flat in the distance, so you can see our neighbor's homestead to the south. The Pinto Mountains (Joshua Tree National Park) are behind.
Same view, now. The dune has formed since the original photo was taken! Before we found the old photos, we had decided to plant palms in exactly the same place Farmer DeMent had. Both of us wanted trees that wouldn't block the view of the mountains from the front of the house.
I choose the small, fragile and broken structure that has no roof to work with for my installation. This structure is an interesting and fascinating contrast with the beautiful surroundings the high desert offers. But it has its beauty too.
Most of the beginning of the work was to prepare the structure by removing all the sand and the hidden pieces of metal, plastic, glass littering the ground.
I collected these materials as I cleaned up the cement slab in the structure, and also around it. Today most of the cleanup is done.
I started to use all these elements as part of the installation, by attaching them on the outside wall.
All these old broken and discarded parts were sometimes made, manufactured, used. All of them are made with materials or a combination of materials coming from Earth.
I love working outside here, feeling the heat and the light changing during the day. Enjoying hours of silence - except for the loud military exercises taking place not very far away.
But in a way this is very interesting too, because it is about the reality of the world we live in. There is a the Mojave desert and its harshness and raw beauty, Twentynine Palms, a town slowly but surely growing, Joshua National Park, a unique place that people come see from all around the world. But for whatever reasons, Joshua National Park feels very far away from Desert Dairy for me. It’s not bad. Somehow Desert Dairy feels more real.
Working at Desert Dairy
by Lori Lipsman
Today is my 4th day in the high desert of Southern California. I’m here to do some art. I came with the concept of working on two Polaroid series with a refurbished SX-70 camera.
As of today I’ve seen an amazing amount of inspiring art by local artists and spent quality time in Joshua Tree National Park.
Where I’m working on finishing and displaying the series, Desert Dairy, has also brought me an incredible amount of inspiration. Not only the property, but the barn I’m working in is amazing and the view it affords me are incredible.
Tomorrow I will wake up early and go to a spot I found to see the sunrise. Thursday I’ll do a longer hike taking with me my REI Flexlite chair, a drawing pad with drawing tools and hike into the mountains in Joshua. I’ll come back to Desert Dairy to get some time in the barn.
Looks like I could have 4, maybe 5, series of work by Saturday. And each piece will be free to anyone gracious enough to give it a home.
Thank you Anna & Ted!
I finally got over to the 29 Palms Historical Society archive, which is only open on Wednesday mornings. It's a warm room full of old filing cabinets and bookshelves. There were about 10 people there, researching and chatting, lively! I spoke with several lovely women who helped me find information on "the dairy." When I gave them our address they just laughed--nothing is computerized and nothing has addresses. You have to know the family or the business. But we found a file and here's what was in it:
Frank and Mildred DeMent
Frank and Mildred DeMent homesteaded in 29 Palms in 1926-1927. 160 acres near the dry lakes on Mesquite Springs Road and Indian Trails. They were among the first to come here with World War I vets for their health.
After prooving their homestead they had two children, Jacquelyn born in 1930 and Don in 1939 at the 29 Palms Hospital.
(transcribed and edited by me)
I was so glad to hear from you, asking about my parents, Frank and Mildred DeMent.
They homesteaded in 29 Palms about 1926 or 27 I think. I wasn't born till 1930. My brother was born in 1939 in the first hospital in 29. It used to be a motel by the oasis. He was the first child born there.
My parents did a lot for 29 Palms and no one has ever recognized it.
They were the only ones who every grew anything. They were completely self sufficient. My father dug his own well, bucket by bucket, before that we got water from the spring at the Palms. We grew oranges, grapefruit, dates, grapes, peaches, apples, and all the vegetables. Also had hives of bees, chickens, turkey, 12 dairy cows, bull, calves and a team of horses. We used the horses to plow the fields for alfalfa and grain.
After more people moved there they would live at our house: well drillers, homesteaders, even the school teachers.
My dad would deliver milk to others as they moved to 29 Palms. Both my parents were sherifs for San Bernardino County and worked with Jack Cones, the constable, after he came to the town.
After the Bagleys moved to the desert, my mother took care of the kids when they started the store. She also cooked at Joshua Tree restaurant on Saturday nights at the 4 Corners.
My father was also a carpenter and he built most of the houses around there, like the Donnell Hotel and a lot of businesses that started up, he also was in on building the first swimming pool. Dad was the weather man for the U.S. Government, till the years we moved to Beaumont. When the war started he worked at the bases they built on the dry lake.
Our house was really nice with large shade trees, shading the whole house, 2 barns, chicken house, etc. The yard was full of trees (fruit) and vines and lots of beautiful roses and other flowers with hedges of oleander bushes all around. Down by the well we had alfalfa, vegetables, grain, and watermelons.
When they started a school the kids would come to our house on field trips. My dad would show them how to make cottage cheese, ice cream, feed the calf and and milk cows, ride the horse, etc. We never had phone or electricity, and only inside plumbing the last few years that we lived there.
When my father passed away, my mother had to sell the property. My father did not leave a will.
I have so many wonderful memories of 29 Palms, my kids tell me to write a book. But as you can tell, I'm not a good speller. It hurts me so much to see all the people that came later seem to take credit for all their work.
I have no information on neighbors. They are all dead now, they were my parents' age.
I didn't get any information on the brick around the flagpole. Please send the information as soon as possible.
Thanks for caring,
Jacquelyn (DeMent) Holloway
Several months ago I started attending a life drawing group that meets in Joshua Tree. The core group is serious and accomplished, mostly retired illustrators and animators, and all are working artists. They are not talkative--when the model is posing, everyone focuses.
Last week I forgot my good brushes. All I had in my box was a small craft brush, but I was determined to paint, so did a cross hatching drawing technique with the gouache. It worked! But what was even better was the reaction from the other artists, who commented on it. I realized they have accepted me into the group, which makes me very happy!
If you want to draw with us, just show up--every Thursday, 5:30-8:30, at the Joshua Tree Art Gallery on Hwy 62. We split the model fee.
The wood floor in the central rooms of the farmhouse is not original, but it's old. According to the previous owner, it came from the local bowling alley, and was not in great shape. I really love the small boards, and thought I should try to refinish it, so I hand-sanded, scrubbed, and then rubbed a combination of vegetable oil and white vinegar into it, section by section. Such a difference! I may have to re-oil every year, but better than replacing, right?
Prepping for a talk I'm presenting to the Contemporary Arts Committee of the San Diego Museum of Art, I photographed an oil I'd painted, plein air, in Bombay Beach around 1992. The Chocolate Mountains are in the background. In the early 90s my paternal grandfather was a snowbird from Oregon at the same RV camp every winter. I'd drive my VW Bug out and stay with him, painting and soaking in the pools with all the old folks. Claude Melville "Jon" Stump was a character, the oldest single man in every camp, which made him quite popular.
Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful year.
Anna does most of the writing. Ted does most of the photos. But sometimes we switch. We are repairing a distressed property in 29 Palms, California, and eventually hope to run an artist residency there.