Lake Sonoma’s Yorty Creek

We are a Lake family. Tom and I raised our kids practically on Lake Sonoma, specifically the Yorty Creek recreational area. Every chance we could get we would hang out on the beach, by the lake with our kids and our dog. The kids grew up out there. We brought grandparents, cousins, friends, visitors. Everybody we were close to, had to come with us to the lake; where we played, swam, kayaked and picnicked for days on end.

Back on April of 2010 we were coming out of, I will say a mini-drought. I wrote a blog post with pictures of the lake under drought conditions, but was happy to report in the same post that there was plenty of water from the latest storms for our summer adventures by the water.

Not this year though. Never in 26 years have I seen the lake…empty. It’s dry, ugly, murky and pretty much looks like the dead sea. We walked along the dry, barren cliffs, kicking around dust and clods of dirt. Finding fresh water clams, of course dead. We were actually I think stunned, silent and just walking, each one of us in our own world of thoughts. Disoriented even, the landscape looked that different! Wondering what happened? Where was our beautiful lake? Where is the water? Why hasn’t it rained? Even the sporadic green bushes were gone. We tried fishing it to no avail. Weary hunters passed us by silently, looking like they too were disheartened by the whole day.

We are in a serious drought. I realized standing there, how we must never take our water for granted. How we need to thank God for it. How we really need to do a rain dance and pray for rain. This lake is our drinking supply and for our farming and wine industry. We have a fish hatchery connected to the lake and annual spawning, salmon runs. This year is really, bad. What will happen to us if we don’t get rain next year? I couldn’t bare to think past that… This is a depressing post, I know. But, the reality of it all is there and posted here for you to see.

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Fruit Stands on the Back Roads

I almost always travel the back roads of Sonoma County whenever I have to go somewhere. Usually, I’m driving my teens to school or work or to visit a friend in another town. I love Sonoma County and all its country roads, and even though I would definitely classify my job as a rigorous Taxi Mom, it’s all worth it for the widespread country views which I adore and soothes my soul. Views of golden rolling hills or wide, flat grasslands combined with pastures and lazy cows and fluffy clouds or clear blue sky days that go on forever is the norm. Every time I go for a drive it is all worth it! My last outing I decided to go off my beaten paths and explore the small produce stands here and there.IMG_9413
First stop, after dropping my daughter off at work driving from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol a (20 minute or so drive), is my little, newly discovered egg stand on the side of the road by Ragle Ranch Regional Park. Fresh farm eggs! Years ago I raised my own chickens and eggs, but for a long time now I have been reduced to shopping for eggs in the local grocery stores. Fresh eggs are so much nicer than supermarket chain eggs. The yolk is bright yellow in color and full of flavor. Brown eggs and blue eggs from Araucana chickens are such a delight for me to see and to bring home! And if I walk along the fence in the park I can visit the flock of chickens from where my eggs came from, so I know they are the real, fresh deal! The eggs are pricey because of the cost of feed for the chickens but I don’t mind, I’m keeping them healthy with their favorite grain; the owner smiling and my new fresh egg habit going!IMG_9974
Next stop, on my way home by the gorgeous Laguna de Santa Rosa off High School Road is The Sonoma Swamp Blues Organic Blueberry farm, (Oh, yum!). Throughout the late winter and early spring I have been watching the farmers cultivating their blueberry bushes from afar while driving and I just couldn’t wait for the season to begin! Summer is here at last and the blueberries are in huge delicious form. Big containers, full of large juicy, organic, indigo colored blueberries line the counter. This is my second year of buying blueberries from the stand so I can make my blueberry muffins, pancakes and fruit yogurt to name a few. I love my blueberries grown on the Laguna Swamp land. I figure the soil must be rich in nutrients to grow such delicious blueberry bushes. When I see the Sonoma Swamp Blues tent with its big banner sign it always makes me feel somehow like I’m taking apart in Louisiana’s bayou living!IMG_9920IMG_9924IMG_9922
Next Stop, winding through the back roads, I have to cut over (just once), to Hwy 12 to pick up my fresh strawberries at the little stand there. Oh my gosh, so worth it! The owners are super friendly and begged me to take pictures of their fruit. (Honestly, they didn’t need to because my camera was out already), the strawberries and blackberries were asking permission to be photographed! Gorgeous, plump, bright red and juicy strawberries; full, deep dark, purple blackberries are in baskets on the counter. Large white buckets in the back filled to the top full of berries! I bought 1/2 a flat of strawberries and a basket of the blackberries. More fresh fruit to add to my yogurt for my quick morning breakfasts before I hit the road being, Taxi Mom.IMG_0876 IMG_0874
After winding my way home back through the country roads past pastures, barns, cows and horses I make one last stop at the top of my street to our friend’s little wooden farm stand. They have had a stand up for years on their grandfathered farm in the middle of suburbia. I always swing by their stand and pick up a basket full of fruit for a tart or smoothies. In the fall I pick up green apples perfect for baking apple pie and making applesauce. Today they are selling peachcots, loquats and raspberries. “Loquat? What’s a loquat?”, I think to myself. I’m not sure what a loquat is so I drop my coins in the container and take the other two fruit baskets and now I’m happily on my way home with my bounty of fresh fruit and sunny thoughts from my country back road travels. Simple pleasures make me happy and today is a great day!IMG_9979

So Who Planted the Mangrove Tree?

My favorite lake, close to home is Lake Sonoma. On the north tributary end of the lake is Yorty Creek which boasts, the only beach on the lake and BBQ pits. We have been traveling the long, windy and bumpy dirt road to the lake for about twenty years now.

Children in tow, plus the dog, kayak and fishing pole packed to the gills (pardon the pun) with beach everything, we hang out on the sandy beach, relax and unwind. Once everyone’s happily playing in the water or eating I sufficiently relax getting into my zen, creative mode and take pictures and/or draw the surrounding scenery.

Huge oak trees dot the golden, grassy hills alternating with pine trees on the far end of the hills that slope down on both sides of the blue lake. It’s beautiful, surreal and I love it here. Interesting to me is the smallish tree on the left side of the lake sitting alone on the edge of the water so sweetly, a mangrove tree. Where did it come from and who planted it? This is not a tree indigenous to Northern California. I don’t see any other mangrove trees lining the water’s edge. Just one lonely, not from around here, mangrove tree with long spindly curved trunks and a little umbrella overshadowing its base. A tree that you would see in some far away tropical island ten times its size.

I’ve been drawing the trees in the area for some time now and I know it wasn’t there before. The mangrove tree is quite young, about three years old I guess to myself. But, there it is. I walked along the dirt path winding along the side of the lake to take a look at it in the scorching heat and ended up enjoying its tiny bit of shade. Fishermen cherish the canopy of leaves for its shade to be sure. It’s the only tree around on the dusty pathway where the heat is usually ninety or above during the summer. I sat under it, alone too, enjoying its welcoming comfort. Little finches graced its green foliage and flew off in unison together happy also for its presence. I felt at peace with the world. Who planted it or where it came from, I’ll never know. I am grateful for the mangrove tree, its beauty alone on the far side of the lake.

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Bear Country

For those of you who don’t know me, I am an avid outdoor enthusiast and have been dragged across half the country, camping with my parents and siblings,and now in turn do the same to my family. I have tons of true bear stories to tell, which many of you have already heard, more than once. Maybe someday I will write a book and tell you at length about the bear stories, but for now I will just talk about my experience over our last trip in the Sierras. Everyone knows that when you camp in the mountains you always take your life in your own hands as mountains are inherently dangerous. I can think of many ways to die in the mountains; you can fall off a cliff, drown in a white-water river, get bit by a rattlesnake, get lost in the wilderness for days, chased and eaten by a mountain lion, or be attacked by bears. I very well know all the rules of bear country but this time I broke them, sadly. Number one rule, “No food in your tent!” My poor dog Goldie, who is a senior, went camping with us and loves to chase sticks and logs in the water (she always thinks she’s much younger when around water and plays hard acting like she’s three again). We spent a long day at the lake and when we got back to the camp site late in the evening, much to my dismay did I see she was bleeding quite a bit from her mouth and had broken her teeth from playing with the logs. I was able to get the one tooth out of her gum (a souvenir), but I had given her aspirin for her old bones earlier in the day and aspirin makes blood thin so the bleeding wouldn’t stop. I washed the wound out and iced it, but the blood took its time coagulating, dripping down her legs, which she kept licking, and onto her sleeping bag. I washed her legs with warm soapy water heated from the fire. I knew we were going home the next day, which this time I was grateful for because of her condition. However, I was worried because we were sleeping in bear country and the ranger had said bears had been seen in our area and to keep all food locked up. So what to do? Sleep in the tent with a bloody dog steak, or sleep in the car with a bloody dog steak and three coolers? I’ve seen and heard cars and tents both being broken into by bears, neither was appealing. It was a huge dilemma for me and I thought long and hard on it. Like I said, I know the rules of bear country. I decided I didn’t want to be lonely and scared in the car so I slept in the tent with my hubby and my poor, precious, bloody dog steak, breaking all bear country rules. I stayed awake all night armed with my iPhone with the bear app (aptly called scare bear) in one hand and my flash lite in the other, plus a hammer and a pot lid to bang if needed. I was afraid, I didn’t sleep all night, although my hubby did! No bears ever came during the night and thankfully my dog’s bloody mouth finally coagulated and she is fine. We made it out alive that night, but that is the last time I will ever break the rules of bear country. There’s my latest bear story for now and I’m tired so, goodnight!

Happy 75th Birthday Golden Gate Bridge

Happy 75th Birthday Today Golden Gate Bridge! Tom and I celebrated the bridge’s 50th birthday, 25 years ago when I was only 27 years old (now, don’t be trying to calculate my age on that anyone!) We were newly married and without kids so we used to go out on fun adventures as much as possible. This time we decided to celebrate the Golden Gate’s Birthday Bash. We woke up bright and early, hopped on the bus from our New hometown, Petaluma (for those of you who don’t know where we are Really from) and set off for the bridge which was closed for the enormous walk across the bridge, no-cars party! I can’t remember everything, was I inebriated already so early in the morning? The bullhorns sounded and we all walked across the bridge in unison. All 800,000 of us! We were packed in like sardines on the bridge, neck to neck, body to body for 2 hours at least. I remember one girl in front of me suffered a panic attack and couldn’t breath. She was carried off to the side over our heads! All I can think of is that I’m surprised it wasn’t me, I hate crowds! Later, news reports said that the bridge swayed and actually flattened out with the weight of all the people! Which is the reason why the bridge is closed today. We ended the day at Crissy Field watching the fireworks and lighting of the bridge. It ended up being a wonderful day and and an experience I will never forget! Today I am staying home and celebrating by watching vicariously through my TV! Have fun if you go!

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My Trip to Italy and France

Hi, Thank you Sonoma Harvest, aka Lynda for letting me blog today about our trip. My family and I spent ten days in Europe. The first stop was to Rome and Frascati, Italy. Then we spent time in Paris, France. Here are pictures from our journey. Bb

Roman Ruins:

Our trip to Rome was primarily for a sporting event, however getting the chance to visit the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Forum and other ruins were but a few of the sites we gazed upon while contemplating what great people built them and what tragic events led to the fall of the Roman Empire. That said, it is still unbelievably beautiful and lends great thought to the imagination of who could create such colossal architecture and what will become of all that we know now around us in our great civilization today.
In the end, what remains are stories told by historians, paintings left in the Vatican, and ruins and relics of yesteryear. As you look upon these photos think of what you see around you today, be thankful, and realize that all that is green is not here to stay…and soon it too will fade away…leaving only memories.

Frascati Fresh:

Frascati is a village of gastronomic delight, more than what feeds the appetite and not less than what feeds the soul. Walking around the courtyard in front of the church in the city center or along the promenade that over looks Rome one gets the sense of walking back in time where three generations of Italian families have found a way to stave off the fast-paced fury of life that consumes most of us on a daily basis-no multimedia, iPod, iPad, computer, laptop, notebook, cell phone or television is needed here. Certainly there is no need for texting either. No, all you need in Frascati are a few euros, a fresh crepe with Nutella from the midnight vendor, or a gelato and a smile, and the time to watch their elders smoke cigars, while the teenagers move around the square sizing each other up, a first glance, a first kiss, or just hanging around, eyeing one another, all the while the young children scurry about making up games to play while the tourists meander around them obliviously disconnected from the bond that allows this to happen all at once…

Yes-spending time in Frascati will help you remember, or not if you never experienced it, what it used to be like when people enjoyed spending time with each other, three generations, all in the same house, and in this case the same village, in a warm winter night with laughter in the air….

Parisian Pleasure:

Paris certainly is busy, and offers many places to visit, but what stands out among the other places to visit is the Rue Mouffetard, in the Latin Quarter, a place for young writers, lovers, artisans, paysans, Parisians, tourists and the like.
What makes Rue Mouffetard special is not the dining pleasure and patisseries on every corner, which are beyond the norm of what culinary delights cross the palate, but a sense of walking into one of Monet’s impressionist paintings. Every light, store front, alleyway, bicyclist, and passer-by could be the next impression imbued on your mind which becomes a memory not to be forgotten.

Louvre Love:

If you are a romantic then you must spend some time in the Louvre where you will fall in love with the artists ability to capture every breadth and brush stroke of beauty that crossed their sight.
Art is an imitation of life, and life is present in art!
Bb

My friend Bb

Hello Friends, I’ve been indoors, it seems all month long in Northern California with deluges of heavy rain. I’m happy to say we are officially out of the drought! My surroundings are gorgeous and green like Switzerland or Austria, complete with snow-capped mountains! I haven’t been able to travel much, so I thought it would be fun to travel vicariously through my friend Bb. He will be posting soon through my blog on his fantastic trip to Italy and France. Stay tuned!

Christmas City by the Bay

At long last I made a small trip to my hometown San Francisco for Christmas. I live really close to the city-just across the Golden Gate bridge, a hop, skip and a jump away, but like most Northern Bay Area Californians I am just plain lazy and don’t bother to leave my little, warm nest and venture on over, or maybe everyone is broke like me! Anyway, we all hopped in the suburban, my husband and I, kids in tow, and set off for our journey across the bridge. The plan was first to meet my brother and his son at fencing practice in South San Francisco, drop his son off and head off to downtown SF Union Square and then proceed to act like tourists visiting the city for the first time. I of course would bring my iPhone and huge digital camera with me- okay, now I look like a tourist. If you are from here it is uncool to bring your camera… Anyway, it turned out that we actually met on the bridge under the first span heading out of Marin as they were only a few cars ahead of us which we discovered as we were busily texting each other-mind you neither one of us was the driver! Long story short, fencing was canceled and we, eight people total, played tourist in the city which was so amazingly beautiful. Palm trees wrapped in golden, glowing Christmas lights, very Cali style. There was a huge lit Christmas tree in the center of the square next to an ice skating rink chock-full full of ice skaters. Kittens were just waiting to be adopted (by me) in the store front windows of Macy’s. Building windows were adorned with beautiful sparkling wreaths row by row. The city was magical, glittering for Christmas, and the crowds were joyously celebrating. We had fun, I took lots of pictures and especially loved the Beatles billboard on top of one of the buildings above the Square- a nod and a throwback to my 60’s days in SF. We barely spent any money except for gasoline, parking and huge soft pretzels from a vendor. We had a great day in the city and on the way back home stopped at the Golden Gate Viewpoint to take in the beautiful evening city lights. What a perfect little trip!