I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Afternoon on a Hill"

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Beautiful and Endangered Place

They said a big storm was coming....
We waited for the power to go off, planning to cook dinner on the top of the gas stove, lighting the pilot with matches like my grandma did and thinking about how much water we would use before the well shut off. (The pump needs electricity to get the water to the house.) Then I cleaned and filled the oil lamps. The power never went off.
We waited for snow.... the wind came first, then the rain..... and then some hail. All morning we watched the weather have its way, whipping our farm into a frenzy, frightening our pups who stayed under our bed almost all morning. It didn't snow.
By noon the rain stopped and the sun filtered through the dark clouds.
I went outside with the pups.... the garden was so filled with water that the ground wasn't taking anymore in. There were puddles everywhere. If it continued to rain, as it had all morning , my garden would have drowned.
 and.... Where do you suppose all the little creatures and insects go when it rains so hard and long? I imagine them in many places. Maybe under the porch watching and waiting for a sign that it's safe to venture outside again. 
As I walked around the garden, straightening things that had been tipped over by the wind and were out of place, I passed the ceramic toad sitting in the pot of lavender.
He winked at me.... or maybe he was just opening one eye to see who was there. He surely had a rough morning holding on to that rusty leaf he was perched upon. I left him there to get some shuteye. We don't want any cranky toads in our garden.
The daffodil that had the audacity to bloom a few days ago was holding on to the little sun ornament, as if it knew that attaching itself to something in the planter was a life saving idea. I think this was wise because the daffodil was still standing upright.
A chair was down near the porch....
and one of my garden ladies was looking a bit waterlogged. 
Even Carl and Cutter were a little anxious about being cooped up all morning. They were happy to be outside for a while. 
Oh, the poor little lawn. Not enough water in the summer and most of it died, then too much water in the winter and now the lawn is a muddy mess. We are discussing the idea of a deck that will take its place. I'm tired of the lawn. It's nice to have one but it's not practical here in the dry foothills, with a well that doesn't give us enough water to keep the lawn alive in the summer.
************
I could hear the creek down in the canyon. It was roaring. I brought the dogs in and told the Prospector that I wanted to drive down to the river and take some pictures. I grabbed my camera and a warm coat and off I went.
As I drove down the hill, I saw little water falls and rivulets everywhere. 

For a few days we will have a beautiful waterfall at our entrance. It's coming right out of the side of the hill, permeating through some rocks. Maybe it will deposit a few gold nuggets in the hole at the bottom. I can only hope....

One of the two creeks that come together on our neighbor's property comes down from a small canyon west of our property. This is a beautiful creek anytime of the year but after a rain it's a torrent of beauty as it comes down and under the road, through a four foot corrugated drain pipe and drops down again into the lower creek. ( Another good place for gold panning when the water is low or gone in the summer.)
All of these many, seasonal creeks flow together and into the Mokelumne River a few miles away. All this water ends up here...
The photo above is looking east from the Middle Bar Bridge. The photo below is looking west, from the bridge, toward Pardee Dam.
This is a controlled river. PG&E releases water at the Electra Power Generating Plant a few miles up river. Because of the runoff right now the river was very high and was moving like molasses this morning. So much water..... smooth, deep, wide and beautiful.
I LOVE THIS RIVER!  So I'm giving all of you who care about the beautiful places in this country a gentle heads up. Please read what is going on with this river in the name of supplying more water to other areas of this state. The Foothill Conservancy is trying very hard to have this river designated as a WILD AND SCENIC river. This would protect the river from being damned with bigger reservoirs and controlled by folks that have no interest in this river except for the wasteful water uses that are prevalent in this state.
As I stood on this old bridge, by myself, looking up river and down, the beauty of it all really hit me.  My grandson has run like the wind across this bridge.
I've stood here and cried, laughed and had many Ah ha moments standing over this river on this bridge. My family has picnicked on this river's beaches and I've brought friends here to see its beauty. This is a friend that comforts me and I can share it with others. That is why I want you to read THIS.... please. 
I don't want this bridge to disappear beneath an expanded Pardee Reservoir. I don't want any of this to happen....


  • Flood the entire Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne River, destroying the river for whitewater recreation and stream fishing and gold panning.
  • Flood the new whitewater boating takeout and parking area below the Highway 49 Bridge.
  • Mokelumne Electra Run east of Highway 49 in high flow periods, leaving a dead-zone bathtub ring the rest of the year.
  • Inundate the historic Middle Bar Bridge, restored by local governments just a few years ago, cutting off a critical emergency route for local residents.
  • Inundate the historic and cultural resources of the Middle Bar area, including a sacred place where the Miwok people gather willow for baskets and cradleboards and teach their children the Miwok language and culture.
  • Result in eminent domain proceedings against local landowners.
  • Require construction of a new Highway 49 Bridge.

If you live in Northern California this is a big deal. Our rivers are at risk. I know how important water is. I live with the threat of a well going dry every summer. That's why we are getting rid of our small lawn. When I see folks with big huge manicured lawns down in the flat land and the automatic sprinklers are on and water is running down the drain in the street, I want to sneak a few big cows in there and let them loose in these front yards. I want to bang on their doors and yell at them. Is that where the anger starts?
Water is a scarce resource here,  as it is in many western states, and I don't think that we just need to make our reservoirs bigger to accommodate folks that don't know how to conserve their resources. 
Anyway, this is my request. Turn your water off when you're not using it.  Do full loads of laundry and then, when you have a free day, take a drive to a nearby river and really look at it . 
The river is rainwater. The river is melted snow. It is a precious commodity and it's not going to last forever. Our rivers will tell you this story if you listen. Just think about it.  Please READ what happens to rivers when folks want more and more water.
It rained today. It was beautiful. The River is happy.... for a while.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The General's wife, Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo.

Comandante General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, must have loved his wife a lot or maybe it was tradition. He used her name for  many towns around California. In December of 1846 he sold some land to two men, Thomas Larkin and  Dr. Robert Semple and the City of Benicia was founded on May 19, 1847.
He wanted to call it Francisca but the little burg of Yerba Buena, by the bay, choose to change it's name to San Francisco and I guess there were no patents or copyrights on names then so his second choice was his wife's middle name and Francisca became Benicia. His last name, Vallejo, became the town just to the west of Benicia.
Mills College was founded here in 1852. It was the first women's college west of the Rockies. It moved to Oakland in 1871. Benicia became the capitol of California for one year in 1853.  Soon after the legislature was moved to a courthouse in Sacramento which became the permanent state capitol. I think the residents of Benicia would like to have their "capitol" status back. This tile plaque is embedded in the sidewalk. It seems that there was or is a group that is called "Return Our Capitol".
Wikipedia says that Benicia really opened up when World War 2 began. During the war, the arsenal supplied ports with weapons, artillery, part and supplies. It was called the Benicia Arsenal and you can read about this war effort here if you would like to learn more history about this interesting place. My mother worked at the arsenal for a short time before she married my father. I believe it was in the post office.
Benicia became much more accessible when, in 1962, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge was completed . That was the year I graduated from high school. I don't remember the new bridge being built. There must have been a lot of celebrating and excitement but I just don't remember. I was 17 years old. Could have been that I was more into boys than bridges then.

*****************
 Last Tuesday the weather was in a holding pattern. No rain. Big fluffy clouds. A bit of sunshine. We had plans and the weather was going to cooperate for a while. We drove to Walnut Creek and picked up a good friend at her vintage/antique co-op called A Room With A Past. She and a bunch of other ladies have a once a month store that is more fun than ... "a barrel of monkeys". Did I say "monkeys". I did. For those of you who love monkeys.... it's that much fun. Here's the link for those of you who want some great buys and a real treat.
They were getting ready for the opening on the following weekend and Jan told us to meet her there. We dragged her away for the day, drove across the bridge to Benicia and just had a fun day of looking, laughing and eating. Jan was raised in Pleasant Hill too only she is much YOUNGER than us. She happen to read my blog a couple of years ago where I had written  a post on Gregory Gardens, the housing development that we all lived in. We have been friends ever since. She helped us during Mom's illness and passing. She was always ready to offer any help she could give. I will always be grateful for this. She has a blog called Little Pink Houses and really lives in a little pink house. Our families went to the same church. Our dads were both from Napa, CA. and knew each other. We are a friendship of coincidence and love of old things, except for MONKEYS.... but that's another story.
So, we headed for Benicia....
The trees were in bloom and sun was still shinning down on us. This is a charming downtown.
 We wandered through a few stores waiting until noontime and our reservations for lunch at the Camellia Tea Room
 a charming place where the food was great and we talked, and talked, and..... divided a delicious dessert three ways and watched the clouds gather from the west.
The sun disappeared as we headed toward the car. Sis took this picture of Jan and I so we could celebrate finally getting together. We had tried before and something always happen to our plans. This time we did it.

It was a great day. Before we left, we drove down to the old arsenal.
 The old arsenal buildings are filled with artist workshops and they have an open house during the summer where you can come down and see what the artists are doing. We will have to come back. We had such a good time.
Let's do it again soon, Jan. Thank you for the handmade valentines you gave Sis and I. I have mine out where I can see it all the time. It's beautiful. You are a sweet person. We're so lucky to have your friendship.
Jan used her hand to formed the shape of the valentine. Somehow that makes it even more personal. Isn't it beautiful? She always remembers the love of music that Mom passed down to us and the memory of our mothers, hers and ours, singing in the choir at church. It's a good memory.
The rain came in later in the afternoon. It poured. The next morning I went over to my Son's house and watched Little Bean so his mom could go to a meeting. We picked up The Bean from Kindergarden and all of us went to lunch. It was a fun day.
 We need these special times. They give us fortitude for the other times that aren't so good. Please try to make some time for yourself ..... even if it's only a day or two. It's live giving. It's the umbrella in a rainstorm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays always .... add up to fun.

Last Monday I was on my third day in the "hood". I was raised in Pleasant Hill, California.  Before the 70's it was a lovely, small town and very accessible to the Bay Area which consisted of San Francisco, Oakland, and the infamous and wild town of Berkeley. I remember coming and going, through the Caldecott Tunnel all my life. It was a well traveled road for my family and the only fast way into Oakland.
My Dad worked full time at the Navel Supply Center in Oakland and part-time for over 30 years at Smith's clothing store. When we first moved out to Gregory Gardens in Pleasant Hill, in 1950, you almost always had to go back into the Bay Area to shop and for entertainment. There wasn't a whole lot to do in Pleasant Hill. It was a very small town. Things have changed now but old habits die hard. My sister and I still head through the tunnel when we really want to find a variety of stores and for a great day of shopping.
Sis went online and found some knitting stores for us to check out. First we went into Berkeley. We drove down to Shattuck Ave. to the Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics store.
This is an amazing fabric, yarn and button store that has the most beautiful fabric I've ever seen.... and BUTTONS. Lots and lots of buttons.  I have never seen buttons so organized. There was a whole wall of little boxes, each filled with a different and unique button. Anything you can think of they had a button for. I used great restraint and bought one button, kind of as a souvenir.
A dog button. What else? It's a big one. I will use it for something special. I also bought a yard of open weave ribbon that I want to try felting some wool fleece into.
It's a stiff ribbon and very interesting.
They did not have any weaving supplies, which is what I was looking for, so we moved on. Before leaving we talked to a lady named Hannah, who worked there and who weaves. She was interested in wool fiber sources. I told her a had been given some names of a couple of ladies up in the mountains that might  have some raw wool. I haven't called them yet.... so Hannah, if you are reading this. I will contact you as soon as I find out anything. I still have your email address. I have been busy since I got home but I promise I will contact you .
 There was another store on the same street. I can't remember the name of it, which is awful, but maybe the owner will see my blog and email me so I can mention her store. I need to rectify the fact that I lost her business card after I gave them mine. I think it's probably out on the street where. It was raining cat's and puppies when we left and I couldn't get the umbrella to work so we ran to the car. They were so nice when I asked if I could take some pictures but the name of the store remains a mystery.
We drove to another store in Albany, on Solano Ave. called K2TOG. This was the ultimate yarn store.  A rather small place packed with wonderful yarns. I didn't take any photos. I left my camera in the car. It was raining so hard that I concentrated on my umbrella instead. They didn't have any weaving supplies either but she directed us to another store that did. I bought this card before we left. Folks who knit will appreciate this....
So off we went to find ~A Verb for Keeping Warm~. Isn't that a wonderful name for a fiber and yarn shop. It was another amazing store....
We finally found this store in a warehouse on San Pablo Ave. in Oakland. Here is where I found raw fleece and the pair of hand carders that I was looking for. Now I can prepare the wool for my felting projects. Which means that I will probably have to learn how to dye wool and maybe start spinning. Oh, joy. Another project.
We had such a good time. It rained all day. We got back to my sister's and collapsed. We had take out for dinner and went to bed early but what a rainy, fun Monday it was.... not like the old song at all. This rainy Monday didn't "...get us down." and neither of us have come down with a cold either.
Tomorrow we go to Benicia, CA.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Free Hugs......

When I was working for a living and had to get up on Monday morning to face another week of decisions, long days and (sometimes) aggravation, I could have used this video to remind me that life is good, what I did made a difference and that people love to receive a hug once in a while.
Please go to Nancy's A Shepherd's Voice  and her Monday Moments video for a free hug. Look at how easy it is to make some one's day just by smiling.... or in Italy... giving out free hugs.  This will make you feel so good that you will be able to tackle anything this week.

********************

When I arrived at my son's house last week my grandchildren were out front learning to ride their new skateboards.
With more gear on than a soccer player they were ready to learn the fine art of Skateboarding. Little bean decided that a starting position of "hands on the ground for balance" was a good idea. At four years of age, this was probably a wise choice and already being on the ground left less distance to fall when the skateboard didn't cooperate.
The Bean tackled this new challenge (as he always does) with more determination than a bull moose crossing a crowded city street.
Even wearing his green Crocks instead of tennis shoes.... Noni worries about stuff like this. You grandmothers know what I mean. Tennis shoes would be safer and give him more support.... and give him better  stability.... and if , God forbid, he falls..... the tennis shoes will stay on his feet. You know..... Noni-phobic.  I remember giving my grandmother a few near heart attacks when I was learning how to be my own little person.
Anyway, he didn't fall. He hardly ever does. He's AWESOME...  even with green shoes.
They both had a great time. The day was beautiful.... sunny.... warm. Within an hour or so they were balancing on these boards with wheels like little pros and I just took pictures....
How wonderful it is to see your grandchildren grow up. The cute little babies turn into sweet little toddlers and then into small versions of their parents. I remember the Bean's daddy learning how to balance on a skateboard many years ago and the first time he road his bike without the training wheels. The time he tried to navigate a dirt jump and fell. Oh yes, it all comes back to me as I watch these two little boys learn something new.
It's an on going process... wanting to be good at something... wanting to be challenged. It's the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you finally know that you have got the balance and you are flying instead of walking.
Hugs to both of my grandsons. You did it! I'm so proud of you. Here's to keeping your balance for a lifetime.... learning new ways to bring you both a sense of pride in what you do. Learning the boundaries of your life and always trying to expand them in a good way.
Hugs to my son and my daughter in law too. They are always there with encouragement and love. It just makes my heart happy.

That night I watched the  boys so Mom and Dad could go out to dinner. The Bean taught me how to water ski on the Wii game program. He still had so much energy and couldn't understand why Noni was not making "big jumps" on her water ski.
"This way Noni. You have to jump UP when you go over the boat wake." The Bean could make the ski board jump and flip. I tried. My score was 180. My grandson's was over 1000.  I couldn't water ski well when I was in real water and a lot younger. I was lucky to keep my balance and not drown. Even trying to learn the nuances of this sport in a virtual reality world.... I still sucked.....
So I soothed my wounded ego with a piece of Valentine candy and watched  Little Bean slept off his big day ....
...and Lizzie, the guard dog, waiting for the rest of the family to return.

It was an AWESOME day. I slept well that night.

Tomorrow we go to some really cool yarn and fabric stores in Berkeley and Oakland.