Three of my many blogging friends who feature photography on their sites are Chesapeake Bay Woman (CBW for short), Daryl, and Country Girl Kate. They regularly capture such beautiful images of their corners of the world that yesterday I was inspired to pull my camera out of my purse and shoot. Humble Black Butte Lake can't top the beauty of CBW's Mathews, Virginia, or the tiny things that live in Kate's Maryland back yard, or the cultural richness of Daryl's Manhattan, but it will have to do. It's my favorite part of Fooleryland.
My mom proposed in impromptu picnic at the lake yesterday, and we were all in favor, so the girls and I went with her for the short drive into the western foothills for a quiet picnic in perfect weather.
Drought has left the lake very low this fall.
Summer is over and the water skiers and campers are gone.
You can't believe how quiet it was.
They've erected a cool new play structure since we were last here, so the girls had to check it out. Sparky announced that it didn't match anything at the lake; I had to agree. Maybe we have a future designer or architect?
We drove to the top of the dam where there is a lookout point. I could live up there.
The late afternoon October sun is unforgiving.
Once upon a time on such a picnic my friend Shirley and I swam across that far bay, holding our fishing poles aloft and out of the water. The sucking mud was so thick around the edge of the lake, and the cockle burrs so numerous and sharp, that swimming across seemed like the better option. That was 35 years ago at least. Facing the same choices now I would just buy fish at the store.
Glad I wasn't around when this baby came hurtling out of whatever volcano used to be here.
Part of Black Butte dam, with Farm Sanctuary West in the background. They do good work rescuing neglected farm animals.
The last time I water skied I got hit on the head by my ski right in this bay. Explains a lot, right?
The water skiers may be done for the season, but the fishermen don't give up as quickly.
Looking homeward, out across the valley. And now you've seen so much that you can cross Fooleryland off your bucket list.
Please visit CBW's "Life in Mathews," Daryl's other blog "Out & About in New York City," and Country Girl Kate's "Chronicles of a Country Girl," to name but a few wonderful bloggers who take stunning photographs.
My town turned 100 two years ago.
It seems that shortly after incorporating into a town in 1909, Orland decided it needed safe water storage, and so a large water tower was built. The tower stands 126 feet tall -- maybe higher, because I don't think that accounts for its pointy hat -- and is still in use today.
I think we have more wires in the air than they had 100 years ago.
But that's not what I wanted to tell you. I told you that so I could tell you this: Orland threw a birthday party for the water tower recently, marking the tower's 100th birthday in June by lighting the tower with flood lights for the first time in its life. My good friend Gubby, who moved away from Orland years ago, was jumping out of his skin to hear all about the lighting ceremony and urged me to get "tons of photos." I got four.
Local historian (and my high school graphic arts teacher) Dr. Gene Russell stood on the back of an antique fire truck to address the assembled crowd and share water tower facts: constructed at a time when Orland was bustling and prosperous, the tank holds 80,000 gallons of water and can be seen for miles around. Doc Russell did not say why this particular water tower holds such fascination for Gubby, but I think I can help Doc out with that one: Gubby may be hosting a large brain parasite and he needs to get out more.
I haven't driven up I-5 at night to see the water tower bathed in light, but I plan to. Like Gubby, I too need to get out more. I plan to pretend I am a tourist headed north, when I espy a water tower glowing up ahead, and I'll say to myself, "Hmmmm, Orland-O . . . wonder if they have water here . . ."
(Seriously, big props to my friend and neighbor Gary Campbell, who, as Orland's Economic Development Commissioner, spearheaded this community beautification project, and others. Anything that makes my town better makes me happy.)
For a nice shot of the water tower all lit up, check out Steve Monck's photo at his Orland Bulletin article. Just can't get enough of urban water towers? Check out my friend Daryl's blog "Out and About in New York City," in which beautiful photos of water towers are a regular feature.
We've gotten a lot of rain recently. It may not be enough to stop this year's rationing of irrigation water for farmers, but it has certainly given our lawns and trees a needed shot in the arm.
The rains have also brought the ducks back.
At least one pair of mallards currently hangs out on Sometimes Pond, a giant puddle in the field across from our house. Sometimes the view is romantic when the light is just right . . . sometimes . . . but mostly it's just a big mud puddle. The ducks love it, though, and show up immediately for the bugs, worms, and serenity. I could watch them all day.
We had a fire on the ranch yesterday. No one was hurt and only a fence was destroyed (although some of a neighbor's equipment burned) but it was harrowing for a while. The himalaya berry thickets eat up acres of pasture and they are a nuisance, but they do make wonderful impenetrable fences until they burn down.
After things quieted down I took my camera out and got some photos, although I had to just hold the camera up and shoot since the sun was too bright to see the screen. They turned out decent enough, and you can watch a slideshow here:
I paced off length of where the northern fence was gone, and guessed about 80 yards of wire would have to be put up. Up walked our friendly neighbor Larry, along with the poor sheepish neighbor who had started the fire, and they strung up hot wires by nightfall to keep the herds separated.
Huge thanks to the Orland Volunteer Fire Department who responded quickly, and the Capay Volunteer Fire Department, who sent a truck when more help was needed. They are all heroes in our community.
I saw this Saturday at the Red Bluff Bull & Gelding Sale. Do you know what it is?
We were in Durham, south of Chico, getting my hair cut, Smedley and Sparky and me. The light outside started getting really weird. "Do you think the light outside is getting weird?" Rita asked me as she combed my wet hair.
"Yes," I answered.
"The light looked just like this before the tornado," whispered Rita." Durham was one of the places a tornado touched down this past spring, ripping up a whole almond orchard.
BOOM! the first thunder sounded. BOOM! BOOM! It was really loud, even under the hair dryer. We waved goodbye to Rita and hurried to the car. It was just before 7:00 and nearly dark, so the huge forks of lightning ripping across the sky were hard to miss. We drove right into it.
BOOM! "Whoa, that was a huge bolt!" said Smedley. It was on top of us.
It was showery, but not pouring. No problems in west Chico or south Chico. Climbed onto the freeway and noticed the hail. Still not a problem -- until getting off the freeway. A car had skidded off the road right near my exit. Whoa.
Once off the freeway the hail was in drifts, piled several inches high everywhere tires had not traveled. I couldn't easily determine lanes or driveways. Luckily I had gotten into the left lane, because at the Pillsbury/Cohasset intersection, the entire right lane and most of the intersection was under water. It was surreal.
We found a place to park near Jamba Juice and picked our way gingerly over the frozen-solid hail, now shrunk to the size of garbanzo beans (my Facebook friends have posted shots of quarter-sized hail, and golf ball-sized hail made the news last night).
Our plans for a girls night were now squelched, so we ordered smoothies for the ride home. I took these lovely blurry photos from the front door of Jamba Juice.
I had a hard time getting out of the North Valley Plaza parking lot because the puddles were massive, and that car doesn't do puddles well; several years ago a particularly big puddle drowned the engine, which had to be replaced. After four tries I found an exit I could swim through and we headed for home.
It still looked like a winter wonderland in Chico this morning as I drove to work. My boss's bathroom skylight was shattered by the hailstorm, which lasted for as long as half an hour, depending on where you were or how good your story-telling gene is.
This little guy was born one late July evening. The girls and I were lucky enough to watch from the haystack, arriving on the scene seconds before he did. I wasn't lucky enough to have a camera with me at the time, however.
LeRoy and Mama are Beefmasters, a hardy breed made up of Hereford, Brahman and Shorthorn cattle. They get their big droopy ears and their fleshy jowls from the Brahman breed which are weird and wonderful cattle. And sometimes the male Beefmasters develop a small version of the Brahman's hump on the shoulders, making them look extra fierce.
Perhaps you have been wondering the status of Mean Chicken. I checked with my mother, a.k.a. Wife of Chicken Fairy, Keeper of Mean Chicken and the rest of the flock. So far, Mean Chicken has stayed put in her home coop, at least for the time being. But she figured out that if she wants to badly enough, she can fly over the fence, so now she is Chicken Unfettered. This newfound skill could add to her obnoxiousness, or it could be socially and psychologically liberating. I'm hoping she becomes a sort of Chicken Goddess who has no need to pick on the next generation and who instead serves as a mentor and grand matriarch. You know, Chicken Oprah.
Chicken Oprah would still be appealing lightly breaded and pan-fried and surrounded with steamed broccoli and a glass of white wine, so she'd better behave. I have her number.
(Original photo stolen from these guys)
Grandpa [a.k.a. The Chicken Fairy] was quite puzzled today when he brought in four eggs, since we have only three laying hens after banishing Mean Chicken to the Pushing Water Ranch Coop [in the heart of Fooleryland]. The mystery was solved when he discovered Mean Chicken, terrified, huddled in the Old Home Coop [sometimes called the Winchester Mystery Bird House because of its frequent additions].
How she managed to find her way home and subsequently to lay an egg in her home nest is a puzzlement never to be solved. The rest of the flock seem unimpressed, though when she resumes her Reign of Terror, they'll notice.
Submitted by Grandma, Co-owner of Mean Chicken, Wife and Manager of The Chicken Fairy
A phone call to The Chicken Fairy this morning confirmed the story. Wish I'd seen Mean Chicken cross the road and walk about a thousand feet to get to the other side.
Will Mean Chicken yet again be delivered to Fooleryland under the cover of darkness by The Chicken Fairy? Will Mean Chicken stay put in her home coop and mend her nasty ways? Or will she again pick on the pullets and be made into a hamburger? Stay tuned to Fooleryland to find out!
All we were trying to do was watch a parade, really.
Smedley and Sparky and I kept a promise I had made to my friend Frances (who is one of the funnier and gutsier people in the tri-county area) that we would attend the Glenn County Fair parade Saturday to cheer on her family's float. Every year her family creates a parade float, just because. Last year they all dressed as Elvis, right down to cardboard guitars. This year's theme:
Team Bacon spanned several generations and was a big hit on the streets of Orland. The announcer at the parade judging table cracked up to the degree that he had to put his head down for a second to compose himself. And for all of that, I didn't get ONE photo of Miss Frances doing the bacon dance (it goes -- are you ready? -- kiss-kiss, waaaaave, wax on, sa-LUTE!). But Frances was right in the middle of the action, doing the Macarena and the "Pulp Fiction" dance at the highest point of the float. She was a Bacon Cage Dancer. A Solid Pork Dancer. A Fry Girl. Don't worry; I'm done now.
Big thanks to the greater Kraemer family for an unexpected fun day. We'll be back next year.
Tuesdays are hectic days for our family. Today turned normal Tuesdays on their heads.
I think a timeline might be helpful. No, wait -- a Venn diagram. Aw, scratch that -- how about a map?
This is a Google Earth view of where all four of my family were at 4:50 p.m. today. Smedley was in one of the buildings -- though not the one I thought she was in -- at her theater class. Chas and Sparky had just come from the dog park, and had the beagles on leashes standing in the parking lot. I pulled up next to Chas's car, and the three of us wrangled beagles for a couple of minutes before Chas walked to his job. Sparky and I loaded the dogs into the Thunderbird.
I was just pulling my feet into the car when I noticed a vehicle coming across the parking lot toward us. I thought it might be someone I knew because of how close to me he opted to park, but I could see he was an old guy in a Hawaiian shirt, a stranger. I closed the car door and turned toward Sparky and the dogs in the back seat.
"So, how was school?" I started, but stopped speaking when I saw two police cars hurrying up behind us. A woman in a green Mustang parked nearby, got out and pointed at the car next to mine, then moved her car out of the way. In a moment there were four cruisers behind the Fooleryland cars and the old guy next to me.
"Uh-oh, Sparky," I started to say, but was cut short by the sound of a voice coming through a loud speaker, something along the lines of
"PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM! SHOW US YOUR HANDS!"
"Crap," I said. Or something similar. "Sparky, I want you to lie down as best you can. Just keep low, okay?"
"Why? What's going on?"
"Well, I'm not sure, but the police want this man to get out of his car, and I want to make sure we're safe, so keep low."
You cannot also instruct a beagle in this manner.
I tried to lie down but the center console kept me from doing that, so I sort of laid back, stared at the sunroof, and thought of England. I think all of my body except perhaps my nose was below the firing line, but I'm not totally in love with my nose, so I was pretty calm.
Until I saw that they had brought the old guy down to the pavement, but I could still see thee hand guns pointed at the old guy's car, and then I realized that his car had smoked windows in back. The police couldn't see if there was someone else in there, and neither could I, but they reeeeeeeally thought there might be someone else in there, so I did, too.
"Sparky, duck again!" I said, trying to sound nonchalant. Now I was worried. Truthfully I was mostly worried that some helpful policeman might evacuate our car out the passenger door, and we'd have some fancy beagle-wrangling to do under duress.
"Hey, there's a kid or something in that car!" I heard one officer say.
Up went my hand, fingers splayed in a kindergarten wave that said both "Here we are, yep! Hiya!" and "I'm totally unarmed!"
(Original photo by Sparky)
The story winds down from here, and is mostly a comedy of errors due to the fact that Chas was working very nearby and didn't realize that half of his family (and his beagle fortune) were nearly in the line of fire. I went into his store to tell him that we were safe, and someone came in and related that the police had been chasing the drunk for 15 minutes, during which time the old man had hit a few cars. I don't know if any of that is true. A store owner farther down saw the old man apprehended by the police, which I heard but didn't see. She told me that the old guy's pants weren't zipped, and when the cops tackled him and dragged him out of the line of fire (in case there were more suspects in his car) his pants came down and he was buck nekkid on the asphalt. She told me this out of genuine concern for the theater kids, but I just shrugged. I was thinking, Eh, how big a deal could seeing an old alcoholic's genitalia be, as compared to watching most of Chico's law enforcement converging in this parking lot?
Because Smedley was in a different classroom from usual, I spent an additional half hour waiting for her, thinking they scheduled a late practice. She was, of course, miffed that I was late.
"But --" I started to protest.
Never mind. It's the best excuse I'll ever have for being late, and it still wouldn't work with Smedley.
(Photo from Anthony Watts' Bidwell Ranch Webcam -- visit it for live Chico weather)
Snowmageddonafornia is a bust. Everyone waited with bated breath (and mostly bad bated breath, I might add) for the snow which never came to most of the valley. Chico got heavy wet flakes this morning, but it didn't stick so it doesn't count.
Mostly, I DIDN'T GET TO SEE IT SO IT DOESN'T COUNT.
It snowed here New Year's Day. Not that we saw any of it; it was gone by the time the kids and I got up and we had to rely on Chas for the info. But Chas said there was half an inch on his car that had to be removed before he drove off in the predawn darkness.
Smedley was furious that she missed it. So, after the laundry was tackled and the kitchen was cleaned for the third time and rooms were tidied, the girls and I set off with Grandma (my mom) in search of snow.
Driving west to the Coast Range foothills doesn't take long, and we rose with the road up out of the valley.
Smedley took this one with her new camera. If it were a clear day you could see all the way across the valley, past Orland and our ranch to the foothills of the Sierra-Cascades on the east side. But it was threatening to rain or snow -- the temperature hovered between 36 and 39 degrees, startlingly cold for the middle of the day in our flat California valley -- and we could see only cows and deer grazing. Which is okay.
Once we passed Black Butte Lake we began to see snow beside the road. These foothills have always been magical to me, in any weather.
There isn't any place to park along Newville Road so we headed for our favorite old cemetery. Times must have changed since we were last here, and not only was there no place to park there either, but the place was locked up.
So we parked in someone's driveway and played in the snow, such as it was.
The girls have never played in snow. I know! They've touched it only once before, in fact.
After making and throwing a few snowballs they settled in to the only activity possible, since snow angels were completely out of the question: making a snowman.
This is the world's tiniest snowman. Too small for the cookie we tried to feed him, apparently. I'm guessing whoever lives up that driveway was a little bit puzzled by him.
No snow this morning. There's always next year.
Sunday night we went to the annual Downtown Christmas Preview in Chico. Of course my camera batteries were still dead and I had completely forgotten to change them, so I took only one photo, and it was with my phone.
Here we are at one of the cooler gift stores ever, Bird In Hand, in the back of the store, where they have a yoyo museum. Seriously. These people are VERY serious about yoyos. I, on the other hand, can't even touch a yoyo without hopelessly tangling the string. This is one really big yoyo, with Smedley on the left . . . oh, and some big wooden thing. Ba dump-bump.
Craigslist strikes again with another winner. The following is the ad exactly as it appears (except for the phone number). Photo stolen from Anna.
* * * * *
THIS GOES ON TOP OF A DRESSER. IT HAS SHELVES. PRETTY BIG. CALL ANNA AT [NUMBER OMITTED]. 100 OBO
* * * * *
How much for the ShopVac or water heater or whatever the heck that thing is that's far more important in your photo?
Because it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (it's also National Pie Month, but that's another story), Enloe Medical Center asked our advertising agency to create TV spots for Operation Mammogram, a free breast exam clinic they and other community groups* are sponsoring. It's always nice to do work for a great cause. Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with this spot; credit goes to our video director Robb Ross, our boss Bob King, our Enloe liaison Sharon Cuglietta, and to the five breast cancer survivors who bravely danced in front of the camera.
For more information about Operation Mammogram, please visit Enloe Medical Center's Community Events web page.
*Because they deserve to be recognized: North Valley Community Foundation's Swing Fore a Cure, North State Imaging, Soroptimist International of Bidwell Rancho, and Enloe Regional Cancer Center.
The circus was in town Tuesday night, and I was lucky enough to score comp tickets. After a heart attack dinner at Taco Bell the girls and I headed for the fairgrounds to see Circus Gatti. (I was relieved to finally see the spelling of the name G-A-T-T-I, as I was bracing for Circus G-O-T-T-I, which would involve a lot of fake tans and open hostility.)
The ringmaster had the biggest Announcer Guy voice I have ever heard. Very broad and announcer-y. I spent too much time imagining how he must get through a day in his private life:
"Ladies and gentlemen, Puh-LEAZZE PASS the SALT!"
"If I may die-RECT your atTENtion to the MESS in the BATHroooooooom . . ."
The acrobats were appropriately exciting and I confess I got pretty dizzy at one point. The trained dogs were a hit with all the kids, of course. And I particularly enjoyed the snare drummer, who had the most important job of all. But the big hit of the evening was, of course, the elephant show.
At intermission Tika was led up to a stairway ramp where swarms of kids with $8.00 crushed in their little fists were waiting to ride the elephant. Smedley was beyond excited. I was anxious as only a neurotic mother can be, while visions of stampeding elephants tossing children like matchsticks filled my brain. I set aside my fears long enough to dig $8.00 out of my pocket and wait in the Kiss and Cry area.
Sparky was having none of it. "Don't you want to ride the elephant, Sparky?" we asked, many times.
"No way," she stated flatly. She stood with me in the Kiss and Cry.
What a ride Smedley got. Twice around the ring at a dizzying speed and back to earth to tell the tale. "Did you take my picture Mama? I wanna show Baylie, Mama. How many pictures did you get, Mama? Mama, can I take a picture, too?"
But of course I got photos! Here is a sampling.