Monday, December 13, 2010

Sea of Love

 The sad, bitter, awful and unwelcome phone call came on Saturday, October 30, 2010.  Big brother Jeff was in complete renal failure due to complications from chemo therapy for advanced colon cancer.  The chemo therapy was not going to prolong Jeff’s life, but had cut it drastically shorter.


We all dashed as quickly as transcontinental airlines allowed to the hospital in Melbourne, Florida.  Big bother Joe and little sister Janette were already there, and little brother John followed a mad, indirect route to finally arrive on Sunday afternoon.

 What we found there in that kind institution was a “Sea of Love”.

 There was the familiar childhood “sea of love” in our close brother/sister relationships that never change or grow up.  A big brother is a big brother all his life.  A big sister or little sister keeps that special role and the memories flowing from it.


There was the familiar friend, teammate and schoolmate “sea of love” with Jeff’s wife Judy whom we have known all our lives.

 Most obvious and overwhelming was the “sea of love” created by Jeff’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Or was it a sea that flowed from Jeff toward them all? My hope is that all of us feel that kind of love in our final hours. 

I pulled out some old photos of Jeff as a child, a young man, a young father - but have been unable to post them.  Maybe soon.  This is the last photo of the five of us together, after our sister Jane's funeral in 2004.  It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the great escape

This evening our little group met up at a local winery whose owners sponsored a release of two rescued owls. The winery is Folio - the Michael Mondavi Family Winery. I was very curious about how owls are released. The non-profit group that rescues these birds and other wildlife is the Wildlife Care Association. They operate on a shoestring budget, yet rescue 5-7,000 wild animals per year. The great horned owl above was rescued about 14 years ago and could not be released back into the wild due to a broken wing. She nurtures young orphaned horned owls and acts as an ambassador for the Association. I took this photo with a close-up setting, and the owl did not blink.

This little screech owl is blind in its left eye, so is also an ambassador and foster parent.

At dusk all the excitement was about this -the release of two barn owls in the organically farmed Carneros vineyard surrounding the Michael Mondavi Family Winery. Two new owl boxes have been installed at the edge of the vineyard. Rob Mondavi hosted the crowd of birders, wine enthusiasts, and local Napa families eager to see the young owls take wing. I talked to many present, and most of the guests were Napa area residents. We were all so glad to support the mission of this small and effective group.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

don't come home till dark

As I left this evening to walk in one of the large precincts in Napa, my husband called out "Don't come home till dark!" This is something my mom used to say as she shooed the six of us out of the house. Sometimes she even locked the door after us. Perhaps the purpose was to prevent us from watching too much TV -- but I think the noise just got to her at times. I recall a dull roar from the house, punctuated by whoops and hollers. I had to smile because it brought back so many childhood summer memories.

Local political races include lots of knocking on doors. The great thing is to see all the different neighborhoods in Napa. Here's a magnolia grandiflora from the east side of town:

And here is a planting of edible strawberries by a front walkway - spilling out of strawberry pots and covering the ground:

Here I am at the end of a long hot Saturday, still smiling.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Camp Rutabaga

"Camp Rutabaga", also known as Diablo campground in the lakes region near Yuba Pass is named for a now famous local practical joke played on Francois and Gerda by this man in black. The sign reads "Camp Rutabaga - Home of Great White Hunters, Lumber Jacks, Bootleggers, Wild Catters & Beautifull (sic) Women". After a day on the trail, I asked that "Filthy Politcians" be added - but Francois assured me that the "Beautifull Women" was sufficient.

Jasmine was bushed and did not stray from the camp.

Francois and the campfire.

Fleeting insect companions for the local wildflowers.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Morning light

Early morning light in the campsite - enough to read by. John McPhee's book, "Assembling California" is a fascinating account of geological explorations of California. It explains why we have gold here, what serpentine rock is, and why we have earthquakes. The route up to the Yuba Pass area traverses all the zones discussed in the book.

We decided to take a hike from the Tamarack Lakes area over a high trail pass, then down to the Sardine Lakes. Jasmine fetched sticks and had a vigorous swim:

Lilly John

The ladies in green amongst the wild flowers watched and chatted about bunnies.

A shocking turn of events happened as we started on the trail and Jasmine was attacked by one of a pair of Malamutes. Her face and ear were torn, but there was no heavy bleeding. We pampered her over the rest of the hike, and John and I dropped back as we let her rest in patches of shade. Her age (now 10 years) started to show as she slowed the pace. The extreme rockiness of the trail was hard on her paws. The route was about 4.6 miles - up about 700 feet, then down about 800 feet.

It's a long way down to the lakes - Lower Sardine on the left and Upper Sardine on the right. The trail comes out at about 7500 feet of elevation, well below the peaks beyond. We passed the "Young American" mine ruins below the trail. The trail began to look more and more like a narrow mining trail suitable for ore carts. Across the valley with the lakes are the Sierra Buttes. On the tip of the highest peak is an old fire lookout station:

We returned to "Camp Rutabaga" hot, dusty, torn and worn.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yuba Pass and the Feather River

In the Sierra Valley high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the source of the Feather River. On our way to camping at "Camp Rutabaga" near the Yuba Pass we went off-road on a ranch road and found the source of the Feather River. This high valley wetland harbors Sand Hill Cranes and Black Angus.

They look so natural together.

Ducks, barbed-wire, pick-up trucks and clear mountain air got us started off on a mountain camping get-away.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

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young wine and a long engagement

This is such a delightful video by my young friend, Laura and her fiance, Jarrod. Laura is the daughter of friends John and Cyndi with whom I have been making wine since 1993. If you watch the video, you will see that the charm of making wine has been transmitted to another generation. Laura is a graduate student, and the name of the wine refers to their desire to wait till completion of the degree before getting married. John and Cyndi make cameo appearances.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where in Napa is...

This brightly painted house is in one of Napa's earliest neighborhoods. Where might that be?

While enjoying a visit from my brother John Inman and his wife Patti, we walked around this neighborhood. There are some lovely hydrangeas on the same block:

We also had an opportunity to go to the Saturday farmer's market by the Oxbow Public Market:

Our visitors were very impressed with Napa. The farmer's market trip was prompted by a dinner at Grace's Table and a quest for the smoked olive oil used in one of the dishes. It is definitely available at the Saturday market.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Muir Woods

Patti and John Inman are visiting Napa for a few days before heading up to Lake Tahoe. Last summer we visited the giant sequoias in Yosemite. While talking about trees, it became apparent that these east coast residents thought the giant sequoias and coast redwoods were the same trees. So off we went to Muir Woods, the only old growth redwood forest remaining in the bay area.

As a well-known bird watcher, John was as interested in the fauna as the flora. Down the trail is John with his binoculars scoping out the tops of the trees.

Just over the barrier is Redwood Creek, with many spotted Salmon fry. The young salmon were abundant and healthy looking. We did not see any banana slugs thundering through the mosses. Of course this is a much dryer time of year than when I last went to Big Basin Redwoods.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Michael Pollan is rather green

This is a picture of the unripe "Michael Pollan" tomatoes from Wild Boar Farms taken this afternoon in the garden. According to the catalog, "Fruit with no BER (Blossom End Rot) developed a pointed nipple on the bottom. Taste is very different from the Green Zebra. Much less tartness, more mild with good sweetness. Very positive response at the Farmers Market. They stuck out and people really liked the flavor. As I ran out later in the season, customers kept asking about them."

As you can see, no BER on these tomatoes. The color is untouched - they are really this green. The plant (along with many others) was purchased back in April after a tomato demonstration at the "Pumpkin Patch". Most of the plants are now over six feet tall, after following the advice on how to promote top growth on indeterminate plants.

These are immature "Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye". Some day these tomatoes will be the heirloom tomatoes of our time.

I've been re-reading "Gardening for Love: The Market Bulletins" by Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Allen Lacy - two of the great garden writers of all time. Elizabeth Lawrence was the Sunday garden writer for the "Charlotte Observer" and Allen Lacy was garden writer for the "New York Times" and the "Wall Street Journal".

According to Miss Lawrence:

"Reading the market bulletins is like walking through a country garden with sun on the flowers, in their very names: princess feather, four-o-clock, love-in-a-mist, bachelor's buttons, Joseph's coat, touch-me-not, kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate, ladyfingers, redbird bush, rainbow fairy, pink sunburst." She could just list the common names of plants and have a lyrical passage.

The market bulletins were published by the departments of agriculture of mostly southern states. Some may still be printed. Southern gardeners (mostly women) traded seeds, plants and cuttings for "pin money". Miss Lawrence tried to verify the botanical names of many of the plants - and added to her garden along the way. Eudora Welty seemed to have played a pivotal role in introducing Miss Lawrence to the market bulletins. It's comforting to know that in this homogenized United States of Generica, such places and practices persist - even in Napa and Suisun, California.

Juli's yellow french beanstalk ~ traded John's red pick-up truck for these magic beans, now about nine feet tall ~ growing in a half wine barrel ~ trellised with two large stacked tomato cages ~ pretty soon we'll be able to climb up to the sky.

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