Saturday, May 31, 2008

Western Azalea

Native to the streamsides of our north coast woodlands, the Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) smells heavenly outside my office door. This one is about twelve feet tall.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Keeping an Eye Out at KZYZ

Our community radio station is such a vital element of Mendocino county and, except for a few key positions, is entirely operated by volunteers. The main studios and broadcast tower are over in Andersen Valley to the southwest, but the Willits studio is linked in for additional production coverage in the inland and north areas of the population. Here, Louis performs a sound check as he learns to produce his own news broadcasts. He's been delivering coverage of local government meetings and hearings for quite a while, and lately Tim has been mentoring Louis in the engineering part of it, broadening the base of local skill-holders. Tim hosts his own weekly late-night talk and music show, Cardboard Prison Radio, on Wednesdays at midnight. Check them out at, where internet streaming is available.

Without hard-working volunteers like these, we would barely have a functioning democracy. If we don't take it upon ourselves to keep an eye out on the decisions being made in our names, we deserve what we get handed to us. Keep the airwaves free, keep the libraries free, keep the internet free. Or pry them from our cold, dead hands.

Click here for more pictures of KZYZ!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Willits High School Entrance

About the only bit of architecture that comes close to the grand decoration of Pasadena-style Palladian, is the front portal to Willits High School. Someday, I'll have to check out the interior. My high school, elsewhere, was built in 1960 or so, and looks more like a Bauhaus concentration camp. I hope these kids appreciate what they have.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yes and No

I don't want to attract a lot of unwanted google search attention, so forgive me if I seem a bit cryptic in the text here. I'm trying to avoid the more obvious search terms. Many of you will already be aware that this county has a massive agricultural reputation for something other than grapes for wine. Contrary to laws on the national level, California has a small allowance for growing an herbal "remedy" that has an extremely high market value. A few years ago, this county experimented with passing a local law that more than quadrupled the allowed volume that the state permitted. Next week, the voters will decide whether or not to change that number back to the state allowed number. This is extremely contentious, and astronomical numbers of dollars are involved for some folks. Having something be simultaneously legal and illegal is a goldmine for whoever delivers that product. As straw polls go, I think what is now proposed will pass. I could find plenty of Yeses, and very few Noes to photograph. I suppose there are obvious reasons for that, but I think the writing is on the wall. Or not.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Broken and Torn

This seems to have been an office room on the side of a commercial garage. The curtain is a faded print of an old patchwork quilt design.

BrokenAndTorn Jigsaw PuzzleBrokenAndTorn Jigsaw Puzzle

Monday, May 26, 2008

American Legionnaires

It was the American Legion post here in Willits that originated the Frontier Days festivities (of the Fourth of July) to start raising money for a hospital for the community back in the mid-1920s. Dr. Raymond Babcock, who had served in WWI and was a Legionnaire, surely had the idea to begin with. It was his burden to try to treat people either up at the company owned infirmary of the Northwest Lumber Company in what is today the Brooktrails housing development, or down in town at his own home. But shortly thereafter, Charles S. Howard, the wealthy Buick distributor and owner of Ridgewood Ranch to the south, fully funded the hospital after the tragic death of his teenage son in a vehicular accident. The community fundraising continued, and soon the Legion gave over operations to an independent Frontier Days organization. But we'll see that in July.

These gentlemen had already gone to the local cemeteries to decorate the graves of veterans with American flags, and had just arrived at Recreation Grove on Sunday to enjoy the Community Festival car show sponsored by the Willits Shifters club. There were too many beauties to post, so check out the overflow of images linked here.

For more cars, click here!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shedding Petals

It's not only the orange or yellow (or both) of the petals, and the pink disk at the flower base, but the blue-green gray of the foliage as its foil, that captivates me. This is one of the plants comprising "medicine chest" gardens currently being promoted by herbalists here in Willits, as another component of localizing an array of resources for self/community sufficiency. While related to the opium poppy, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) does not alter awareness or have similar narcotic effects, according to herbal references. But it is reputed to be a mild sedative and topical painkiller.

ClosedPoppyBunch Jigsaw PuzzleClosedPoppyBunch Jigsaw Puzzle

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'm All Thumbs

I felt a little guilty. Me, out along the roadside, free to roam at will, equipped with useful opposable thumbs. This lovely bay mare, ensconced within a well kept, but grass-denuded paddock. How easy it would have been for me to grasp and tear off tasty clumps of wild oat grass growing just beyond the reach of her hungry lips. There were moments where I thought I detected a look of impatient disappointment that this crazy ape wasn't getting a clue.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Vacant Service Station Entrance

I have long had fantasies of redeveloping vacant buildings in various communities I've lived in, or even just passed by. This is just part of a former vehicular service complex with sort of 1950's "modern" styling, right in the center of town on Main Street. An arts and crafts complex? Alternative power vehicle sales and demonstrations? A new home for the community theater? An International Youth Hostel? All I need is the money, because dreams, I have buckets full.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hot Night at the Pub

Shanachie's is known simply as "the pub" in Willits, and is a relaxed beer and wine bar for chilling out with friends after a hot day, or a long day, or any evening you need the society of others. Many nights feature live music and, if you're inclined, a chance to dance. On this night, it was darts and conversation. More images here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This Week's Bounty

As I posted last Wednesday, I am a shareholder in the Live Power Farm harvest season - and yes! this is my second year! This time you can see my kitchen counter loaded with an array of greens, including spinach, bibb lettuce, romaine lettuce, rainbow chard, bok choy, radishes, amaranth, and a mix of tender leaves I don't recognize but eat all the same. Look here for additional images of the delivery. Did I choose the right photo for the blog?
May20Bounty Jigsaw PuzzleMay20Bounty Jigsaw Puzzle

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Also Neatly Stacked

These Willits Telephone Directories may be waiting for a finishing slice on the printer's cutter. The "big" commercial phone books usually include both Mendocino and Lake counties together, as a practical matter in such thinly populated areas. But when you just want to know what's available within a ten minute drive, a local collection of business ads and numbers comes in very handy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Neatly Stacked

Someone started cleaning up this derelict industrial lot in the center of town last weekend, and got rid of a bunch of trash and broken supplies, then smoothed over the dirt with a small tractor. I'm not sure if those are boxes or pulled-out drawers next to the shed, but the workmen took care that they don't look so derelict anymore.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Also Born To Be Wild

A pair of house sparrows found some prime nesting real estate - safe from predators, available (or made available by kicking someone else out), and gosh darn pretty. It even comes with a handy landing pad for waiting one's turn.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Born To Be Wild

You might say the good news is it was 100 degrees today, because the bad news, according to my new current weather widget, is it "felt like" 108 degrees. For these guys, the air conditioning only works when they're moving, and they aren't moving because of the water main replacement work on Highway 101/Main Street. But we're looking for adventure, and whatever comes our way.

And no, I'm not used to it. My blood is still running thick from the frosty mornings we had just two weeks ago.

Friday, May 16, 2008

NWPR Engines

As I understand it, these locomotives were beautifully restored sometime in the early or mid-90s, and operated on the north-south running rail line through town, until after only a few years someone decided the economics of rail and machine maintenance didn't add up anymore. With the price of highway transportation skyrocketing, someone ought to get out their calculators again. You can see evidence of a "fender bender" on this one (those steps are supposed to be parallel to the ground), as well as unauthorized paint applications. The windows are broken, and all available copper ripped out. The bright side is the beautiful grove of madrone trees and manzanita making a foothold on the tracks, offering some pleasing contrasts.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gutter Balls

I encountered these perfectly spherical iron balls in a street gutter while walking around my neighborhood. Some of them have rusted in slightly different colors, and when I picked one up, it felt solid. Old bearings from industrial machinery? Conceptual art? This is just as I found them. The crushed aluminum can provides scale.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Delivery Baskets

May marks the beginning of produce deliveries each week for those of us subscribing to Live Power Farm up in Round Valley. This food goes beyond farmer's market vegetables because the subscriptions are a flat rate per share in the bounty, and supports the farm family and operations without reference to world commodities prices. If it's an abundant year, the weekly harvests will be larger than usual; if it's lean, then smaller. But the shareholder's support is the same, and preserves that farmers' ability to farm year after year. The food I pick up after work on Tuesday afternoon, seen here at the "drop" location porch, was in or on the ground the same morning at the farm. It's like a Christmas gift to be unwrapped from the wet burlap folds, yielding perfectly clean and crisp spring greens and roots. Always an amazing variety each time, the baskets will fill up higher and higher, the further into summer and autumn we go. Many of the greens I don't even know the name of. I'll post more about this as we progress.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Carnegie Library

According to the plaque in front of the building, it served this area from its completion in 1915 until the current library was opened down the street in 1989. That's a lot of years for an initial investment of $1,000, and brought to simple rural communities something we take for granted - open stacks for citizens to freely browse and borrow at will. Librarians are heroes in the battle to keep information available to everyone, preserving democracy even in the face of efforts to create an imperial regime.

Few examples of this ornate and monumental building style survive in Willits. Today it houses the local community cable channel, which is funded by the contract with the regional commercial cable provider. Among other things, they televise city council meetings and event calendars. One corner of the structure also holds the KZYZ community radio studio, a "satellite" of the main studios of KZYX over in Philo, extending the reach and participation of far flung populations in their public radio station.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chevy in Cherry Condition

Yokum's Body Shop uses their front showroom to house and display their perfectly restored '56 Chevy, which serves as an example of the talent and craftsmanship they offer. The local vintage car club, The Shifters, has their annual Community Fest coming up soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Violet Bouquet

Happy Mother's Day!

There are a couple of women in the region, who happen to be moms among other things, whose personal blogs I visit often:

This ceramic pot belonged to my grandmother, then my mother, then me. I'm off to visit my mom today. Cheers to you and yours.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hands and Soap

Last time I looked for census details, Mendocino county had under 100,000 residents all told. So our farmer's markets are truly local, from a small population base. Right here in town we have a wonderful soapmaker, Dancing Madrone Soap Company, with products sold at many outlets around Willits and beyond. Here at the weekly market, the owner/crafter (and former nurse) sells end-cuttings, close-outs, or vaguely not-perfect pieces to wise consumers. Even as she counts the packets, this guy can't help reaching for yet another bar.

I was honored to learn that my soapmaker already had this blog bookmarked! And hello to her daughter too. Remember everyone, tomorrow is Mother's Day here in the US.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Book Juggler Back Door

There's something pleasing to me about a healthy-looking wall, unblemished by gang tagging, in good repair, and neatly painted. Willits is not untouched by the plague of vandalism and gang activity. Every time the skate park is hit with graffiti, the city closes it. I just read it's happened twice in the last two weeks. I wonder who pays for the clean-up.

This wall is on Wood Street, near the corner of Main. When I looked at this on my computer, I felt like I had posted it before, then remembered the Windsor Mill post. Some similarities anyway.
BookJugglerBackDoo Jigsaw PuzzleBookJugglerBackDoo Jigsaw Puzzle

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dried Flower Vendor

Our weekly farmers market began this month, and I got there early on the first day. The sellers are required to wait until the appointed hour to conduct business, so this one filled those few minutes with a book.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another Miniature Horse

You have to love a place like this.

Just taking a stroll down Commercial Street; why do you ask?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Western Fence Lizard on Petroglyphs

Some rocks on the hillsides around these inland county areas have ancient human-made markings whose age are hard to determine. It's possible they predate even the Pomo people of today and recent centuries. This deeply incised boulder is on display on the grounds of the Mendocino County Museum on Commercial Street. Present still longer have been Western Fence Lizards. They are an attachment host for deer ticks at one of its youthful stages. The ticks that take the lizard ride are astonishingly cleansed of Lyme Disease, reducing the rate of infection for their adult stage victims. Something about Western Fence Lizard blood does the trick, but not all ticks are afforded this treatment so we still have to be careful to avoid bites. So many reasons to love lizards, and now this.

MORE INFORMATION: New York Times article

Monday, May 5, 2008

Frida and Diego

The end of a cinderblock row of apartments bears this tribute to Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, echoing their style anew. An artist friend of Frida and Diego who was his assistant in a San Francisco mural project, Emmylou Packard, lived about forty miles away from here in the coastal village of Mendocino for many years. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Biggest Little City

The Willits Arch originally served Reno, Nevada for about twenty years. When a notoriously intrepid and Willits-boostering citizen discovered the cast-off sign while on vacation to that storied resort town, he set in motion a community project that culminated in 1995 with the emplacement of this reworked landmark. Many travelers have no greater memory of this town than the arch, as they trek to the redwood forest parks to the north. It's also something to look at when rush hour traffic slows to a crawl, squeezing through the eye of the needle.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Zebra Stripes Refreshed

As I drove to work Friday morning, I found these city workers involved in a process I had never seen before. Crosswalks are not painted, but melted into place section by section. One man placed the fresh section over the worn out spot, while the other guy wielded a hot-air blower to melt the white material onto the street. I took so many pictures of them, they were starting to giggle.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Do Poppies Dream of Blue Skies?

The state flower of California finds a foothold in the crevice between the Willits Rexall Drugstore back wall and the alley pavement.
BackAlleyPoppies Jigsaw PuzzleBackAlleyPoppies Jigsaw Puzzle

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Theme Day: Numbers

Dipping below half a tank. Distances are long in Mendocino county. Several choices beckon at the most intensively lit corner of Willits, the junction of 101 and 20, with three gasoline stations available all night. All high prices, going higher. If I can keep this old Nissan puttering for a few more years, the next vehicle I buy will be petroleum free. Here's hoping. Fingers crossed. It's all a numbers game.

City Photo Bloggers around the world participate in monthly theme days, with fascinating ideas for interpretation. Click here to view thumbnails for all the participants. The portal will lead you on a wonderful journey. Enjoy!