Jewish Journal

Meeting the owner of the L.A. urban farm where Kimbra wrote “The Golden Echo”

by Jared Sichel

August 21, 2014 | 12:17 pm

Kimbra taking a selfie with Ramses, the leader of Goudsmit's flock. Just after this pic, Ramses lost his temper and chased Kimbra around the property. Photo courtesy of Kimbra and Rosa Goudsmit

The setting was about as unorthodox and unique as the woman.

Standing on a sidewalk in Koreatown, Rosa Goudsmit, 42, was watching her two baby children, Benjamin and Devrah, who fell asleep in the front seat of her Chevy 3500 truck, which she uses to safely transport bees—yes, bees.

The Dutch native was planning on coming up to the Jewish Journal’s office to chat about the year-and-a-half in which singer-songwriter Kimbra Lee Johnson, known as Kimbra, lived with her while she wrote and recorded demos of her newest album, “The Golden Echo,” which was released on Aug. 19 by Warner Bros Records. Kimbra, in case you weren't aware, is featured in Gotye's hit 2011 song, "Somebody That I Used To Know."

When Goudsmit's kids passed out, though, she asked if the interview could be done outside next to her truck parked on New Hampshire Avenue, where, spotting the honey-mobile, passersby came by asking for honey and a chance to see live bees.

Goudsmit, who is a Jewish urban beekeeper, lives on a small “city farm” near the Silver Lake Reservoir and has dreams of opening up a “city kibbutz” on the adjacent property, where she tends to a handful of chickens and a flock of Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep and their sheepdogs.

She gives off a free-spirited vibe and aside from her bee-mobile, she was wearing a flowing black dress, had on a pink bandana and is a self-described “wannabee environmentalist,” having left a career in video journalism and cab driving at Amsterdam’s airport (she did that for one year as a way to find interesting personal stories) for the more earthy life of L.A. urban farming.

 The “city sheep,” Goudsmit said, were procured from various farms across California and will be used as “living lawnmowers” and “woolly workers” to control the weeds of the future city kibbutz, which she intends to call “Devorah”—which also means “bee” in Hebrew. An environmental committee in Silver Lake, Goudsmit said, also hopes to use her sheep for a future weed abatement program next to the reservoir.

Because the development of the city kibbutz is still on hold, Goudsmit, as a way to keep the farm afloat, advertised her master bedroom on Craigslist for short-term rentals. Guests, she said, would be able to cook fresh eggs daily and enjoy other simple pleasures of country life in the middle of a city, like hanging pots on tree branches to dry out.

One day, Goudsmit got a call from someone at Warner Bros Records who said that Kimbra came across her listing on Craigslist and was interested. After an interview on Skype, Goudsmit said, she decided Kimbra would be a good fit for her city farm.

Kimbra said in an interview on Consequence of Sound that after the 2013 Grammy Awards, she needed a place without “too much stimulus” to write her new album. In Goudsmit’s words, Kimbra needed the laid back environment to “stomach the idea of living in L.A.”

Next thing, Goudsmit had a rising pop star in her house, writing and recording songs for her newest album, feeding her chickens, meditating and doing yoga in the backyard, and occasionally getting locked out of the house at night when Goudsmit forgot that her young housemate, unlike her, stayed awake past nightfall.

“She was fantastic,” Goudsmit said, noting that, unlike the caricatured pop star, Kimbra, who moved out a few months ago, was “considerate,” “very healthy” and “sane.”

Respecting her former housemate’s privacy, Goudsmit related just one story in which Ramses, Goudsmit’s “ram of the flock,” chased the pop star around the farm.

“He somehow got out of his area one day,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “He found his way into Kimbra’s outdoor cooking area while she was preparing herself lunch.”

After taking a selfie with Ramses, Goudsmit said, he became wild and chased Kimbra through the yard. “She looked like roadrunner,” Goudsmit wrote. “Her speed was spectacular! I didn’t know it was even possible to run this fast on these high platform shoes she always wears.”

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Jared is a staff reporter for the Jewish Journal. Raised in North Potomac, MD, a sleepy suburb 30 minutes outside Washington D.C., Jared attended Tulane University in America’s...

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