Monday, June 30, 2008

Smoke Rage

Listening to the community radio station and reading the papers and local Yahoo bulletin board, there seems to be concern about folks having "panic attacks" when having difficulty breathing in the smoky air. But what I've felt has been more akin to "road rage", where the frustration at circumstances that can't be controlled, namely dense smoke in every direction, starts to manifest as anger. I'm calling it smoke rage.

When I left the house to go to work this morning, I could just barely see some blue color if I looked directly overhead at the sky. But the mountains surrounding Willits were still completely obscured by smoke. By mid-morning, a little wind had picked up, giving hope of some better air to come. Then just before lunchtime, fire engines started screaming down the road to the east, and the valley filled with even thicker white smoke - the lowest visibility yet. Apparently a new fire erupted on Pine Mountain somewhere. Nooooooooooooh! [Smoke Rage!]

And as I go to run some errands on my lunch hour, I see young mothers out strolling their babies is this muck! Children running around playgrounds! Do they not read the advisories?! Do they not hear the precautions to take on the radio?! Stay inside! Protect children from outdoor exertion! [Smoke Rage!]

When I got to the bank, the line was quite long and slow moving. Then a young woman comes in and leaves the door propped open! She was oblivious! I was heading over to it, when finally someone else coming in caught it for us. [Smoke Rage!]

Oh, and now, just as I write this, I feel a little earthquake jolt. Great. Let's just add insult to injury here. Unbelievable. Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw recently: Come the Rapture, can I have your car?

I have more pictures of the staging area on Navarro Ridge from last week, and others from here in Willits of helicopters and smoke, on my Overflow Blog.

The Mendocino Complex page at CalFire. If you go to the right side column on that page, there's a good map dated 6/29 of the incidents around here.

No Loitering

It's Pizza To Go, so resist the desire to remain stationary. This is a Zen Monday offering.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

How Dry I Am

This dry cleaning business closed seven or eight years ago. It never occurred to me that the clothes that didn't get picked up by the customers would just stay locked up. The opposite side of the building looks like this.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Please, I Want to Quit Smoking!

Looking north up Main Street/Highway 101 in Willits Friday afternoon, I saw some drivers with their headlights on. This is all smoke from thousands of acres of forest fires, not fog, and it continues to fill Little Lake Valley with hazardous air, and in temperatures near 90 degrees. Like the sign says, there seems to be "No Exit", no end in sight.

Some smoke comparison shots are on my Overflow blog, linked here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Excellent Ink

Spotted between the Noyo Cinema and the Willits Center for the Arts, with its recent Bern Rauch show, were these very nicely rendered local scenes of the ocean and of a redwood forest.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where There's Smoke

My thanks to everyone who has continued visiting this blog, commenting on the scheduled posts. And my thanks as well for the concern for my mother and her home. I've just returned from her house over on the edge of the Navarro Fire, and can report that I am much relieved to have seen the situation for myself. I had prepared for a moonscape, but while much changed, the trees still define the landscape. Much of the understory is burned out beneath them, but that will return eventually. The grass and understory burn was intentionally set on Saturday, to serve as part of a containment line for our edge of the Navarro Fire, which at last report was 3000 acres big. This means we fared much better than the wildfire area without the preburn, just beyond our land, which was far more thoroughly damaged.

I spotted just one serious flare-up on our edge. With fantastic luck, the staging area for the firefight on the west end of the thing is on our property, so I could report the problem without using a telephone. I'm here to tell you, when these guys go to work, it's fast and earnest! Rick Hautala, an employee of one of the nearby timberland owners, was just unloading his ATV as I approached, and I asked him to check the plume I was concerned about. He zipped over, then roared back to the staging field, radioed that the fire had jumped the line, and a 'dozer was required. It seemed alomst immediate that the sound of a tractor-bulldozer came speeding out of the forest. I watched as Rick raced the bulldozer down the road and attacked the fire! His first response with that machine was amazing, smothering the flames with rapidly pushed soil, taking down small timber, and clearing the way for the arriving crew from Marin County with their pump truck and hose and axes! And the Marin guys did their work just as expertly, dousing the flames with the hose, chopping away at the hot ground spots, diligently "mopping up" for hours afterward to secure the line once again. This was all within a couple of hundred yards of my mother's house.

After they had been working there for a while, I walked back to the Marin County crew, and caught the attention of one of the three or four men. What a privilege it was to be able to look one of them in the eye, and thank him, even as he straightened from axing hot embers on the ground! I tried to express the generations of memory on the land he was saving - even as it was anonymous to him - and he filled in the word for me. It was "personal", this help he provided to us. I could thank him from my heart, and I could also thank the quick thinking and action of Rick Hautala.

There are so many I could not personally thank, but I hope they know how much the gratitude and admiration is felt. The gracious men I spoke to would habitually refer to some other crew or individual who deserved more thanks than themselves. Of particular note are the front-line crews from the Department of Corrections (prisoners) work camps, such as Parlin Fork, Chamberlin Creek, and Ft. Jones. They were the ones with the hoes and adzes, chopping a fire break around my mother's house. They are the ones out on the direct fire lines, clearing away fuel from the hungry flames. Hauled by securely enclosed trucks, they were transported from one hot spot or fire line establishment to the next. The few times I actually could see them, they were grabbing what moments of sleep they could catch, on the ground, closely watched beside their trucks.

My mother had voluntarily evacuated to a friend's house over beside the ocean for the last five days. I received a graciously generous discount to stay at the Little River Inn, beside the smokeless ocean each night. When I left earlier today, I felt reasonably secure of my mother being safely back in her home. The main action of the Navarro Fire has moved many miles southeast now, but we must be vigilant. I'll be going back over there in a couple of days to see how it goes. I have tons of pictures that I still haven't processed for posting. When I do, I'll link from here to some of them on my Overflow blog.

Thank you again for all the good thoughts out there. It's going to be okay. The photo essay is here on my Overflow blog.

The official Mendocino County current wildfires information page is linked here.

Wait a Minute Mr. Postman

I've seen this cat wandering happily through the stands on busy Farmer's Market days, but hadn't realized just how gregarious she was until I watched her follow this mail carrier all the way down this row of houses and around the corner. She obviously knew the daily routine, and sometimes took shortcuts to the next porch in order to intercept him with leg-rubs and tripping opportunities. I was unforgivably unhelpful, and asked, "Is that your cat?" to which the carrier replied, clearly in defeat and without irony, "yes".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Local Skateboard Art

A skateboarding shop in downtown Willits, called Locals, recently commissioned a bunch of area artists to create some unique boards to be displayed in the back of the store for a while and then auctioned. Here is just a small sampling. I particularly like the board at the bottom in this image, showing the Richard Nixon quote, "When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thrall Car and Thunder Clouds

I read in the local paper that many of the burned-out rail cars sitting on the tracks near Commercial Street have recently, finally, been scrapped. As I mentioned a while ago in this blog, they posed a safety hazard when drifters sought shelter in them and started fires. I went over to see what was still left a few days ago, just as the electric storm clouds that were to ignite so many fires were forming overhead. This Thrall Car must have passed inspection.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fire Update

I just talked to my mother, and her house on Navarro Ridge is still there. The eastern half of the property has burned, and the fire breaks bulldozed yesterday are doing their job. Back burns on the grasslands and woodland understory have been effective, and there are tenders watching the ongoing smolders on that defense line. The CDF crews are now further out on the lands beyond, where the Navarro Fire still rages. The neighbors' house nearby is intact as well. They have been able to retrieve more from the house to take to storage on the coast.

The danger is not passed. Cinders float through the air, and wind conditions can change at any time. It may be days before the all clear is given. I can only imagine how altered the property is, a place of my life story for half a century, and my mother's for thirty years more than that. We knew the fire day would come eventually, and are so grateful to all the people out there fighting more than 130 fires in Mendocino county, started by an extraordinary lightning storm on Friday.

KZYX radio is the best source of local, updated information. As I type this, they announce that voluntary evacuation is recommended for Rancho Navarro, which is threatened by the same fire as my mother's place.

Some useful links have been posted on the Yahoo Groups Mendocino-BB: (Click "wildfire mapping", zoom in on your
area, select "MODIS
satellite" from the bar on the right, and click refresh)

Satellite: (Click "Northern California 1
KM visible")
When the clouds clear the smoke will be easier to see.

EDIT: A link I found at NASA Earth Observatory, click on the MODIS Rapid Response Team link to the twice daily satellite images for Northern California.

It Starts with Acorns

An oak tree forest sprouts to life near the Willits Library parking lot. A Zen Monday offering.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fire Break

This news is big for me, small for most of you. On Friday and Saturday, Mendocino county got hit by a bunch of "dry storm" lightning, with as many as 90 fires counted here by the combined emergency agencies. The biggest is now reported as involving 1400 acres, and currently threatens very few homes, and which is nowhere near contained. But one of the homes threatened is my Mom's. From what she told me earlier today, the crews have staged part of their fight on her north hill field, the highest point on the ridge. Bulldozers have cut wide firebreak lanes through the property and beyond. We hope her house will be saved, but she has evacuated voluntarily. All we can do is wait, and hope there is enough manpower and equipment for the crews to succeed in their battle safely.

I've had hit and miss luck with the Blogger Scheduler, but I'll be loading in some posts just in case I'm away from my computer for a while.


Redwoods make very attractive landscaping trees, and are suited to the dry summer, wet winter cycle of their home territory. As they grow skyward, they put out a lot of branches to collect as much sunlight for energy as they can. As they grow further on up, the abundant branches now lower on the tree can't all catch as much sunlight as before, so some of them wither and die, while others grow stronger and spread out further from the trunk. It's a way for the tree to focus its growth near the top where it brings the most return, and this self-pruning is natural for a healthy tree. However, when a stout wind comes up, or even if a butterfly lands as a final "straw," these dead branches will fall to the ground. When the early loggers worked in these woods, they discovered that cutting activities around the base of the tree would also shake down dead branches that may have hung up on still living branches overhead. In a day without hardhats or other safety procedures, these projectiles earned the name "widowmakers". It's something to know about if you're going to live this close to a redwood.

I have added some pictures of the "widowmaker" that inspired this post on my Overflow blog.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Redwood In Process

The far hill bears a mix of redwood and douglas fir forest, while the pile on the right are all redwood logs. The lumber on the left is one form they take after milling. There used to be several mills in Willits, and it was the primary resource that brought the railroad through town a century ago. Today, there is one primary processor, Willits Redwood.

As commercially useful fiber, redwood trees grow fairly fast. These probably came from lands that had been cut at least three times before, counting up from the first clear cuts of "virgin" timber stands, judging from their size.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Monster Truck

Oddly enough, there are still quite a handful of these giant wheels around town. Generally though, a lot of gas-guzzlers have "For Sale" signs in their windows.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Street Fashion

The artist had a salad for lunch.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Power of Art

Last Saturday was hot in Willits, and I gook refuge through the open door of the Willits Center for the Arts. Exhibitions there can sometimes include group shows of crafts type art for sale, and other times include the high concept work of a single fine artist, and reflect the wide spectrum of talent and understanding of art and artistry to be found in our area. What I beheld this time was extraordinary. The work of Bern Rauch (pronounced "rock") is always multi-dimensional and wide ranging. Most of the paintings have silhouettes or multiple images layered or embedded onto the surface or surfaces, and convey the personal socio-political views of the artist. His website gives more extensive and detailed images for you to see what I'm talking about. It was stunning. In the picture above, Rauch talks to some visitors.

The first clue I had to the journey I was about to begin, was sitting on the reception counter. More of my photos of this exhibition are on my Overflow blog, linked here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Customer Parking Only

My Zen Monday offering, um, delayed until Tuesday. Refrain from the desire to park.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Save The Grange

Every little bit helps, and the Grange building needs extensive restorative work, so the members put together a community rummage sale, to raise some initial funds. I'm sure there will be more events to come. A musical slideshow of more images can be found here in my Overflow blog. I stole the Animoto presentation idea from Eric of Paris Daily Photo.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Today is Father's Day in the U.S., and I imagine quite of few of them will be enjoying some golfing. There's a nine hole course up in the mountains, but down here in Little Lake Valley, we have this driving range. Just go to O'Leary's Feed & Seed for a bucket of balls, bring along your own clubs, and have at it. That deer doesn't seem afraid of you...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hotel Van

Here's the way I heard it. A young crewman on a ship in the Mediterranean met a young woman from one of the "better" Willits families on a cruise. The two married. He came with her to live in Willits. They bought the Hotel Van, one of the swank accommodations in town at the time. She died at some point, and he moved away. But he kept the hotel, the upstairs all vacant, and has it maintained only just barely up to code standards, so it can't be condemned. It is rumored he always felt snubbed by the people in his wife's circle, the white gloves and hats set. On just about the most prominent corner in town, this empty shell of a building was how he responded, apparently. He must be nearly a century old, somewhere, if he still lives. If this happened, it was a very long time ago. I wonder about such old stories, and how many embellishments have been added over time, since this one sounds so much like Romeo and Juliet. It seems to be the handy answer whenever conversations come up like, "Wouldn't that make a great International Youth Hostel?" or culinary school, or elder housing, or... But after all, it might just have earthquake problems. Who knows?

The few shop spaces that are currently occupied, at street level, are now, finally, all leased by immigrants. Thankfully for the town, because they all have fine businesses.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Organic Window

Mendonesia Cafe recently opened in the old Willits Bank building after it had stood vacant for several years. They've put a lot of work into refurbishing both inside and out, and feature a music and spoken word space for amateur and professional troubadours and folks who want to see them. They are alcohol free, but serve up tasty baked dessert treats, juice, and coffee. A perfect place for expressing and listening in the heart of town.

Reflected in the window, you can see the ghost of the Hotel Van. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Scene Seen on the Side

This is the far end of a long charming fence depicting some flowers native to the county, if not Willits specifically. It guides burrito eaters to a garden patio with tables. I'd like to guide visitors here to a spectacular mural on Victoria Daily Photo just seen today. It's almost unbelievable!

And by request of Palm Axis:
SceneSeen Jigsaw PuzzleSceneSeen Jigsaw Puzzle

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fighting Fire with Fundraisers

The annual fire department open house and raffle is always a big hit, and provides vital support for volunteer training and equipment purchases. They have to be ready for anything, any time, to keep us alive, intact, sheltered, and in business. More photos linked here in my Overflow blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Grateful Gleaners Plant Sale

Yet another event last weekend, the Grateful Gleaners had a plant sale to raise money for garden tools for the group. Theirs is yet another local volunteer group getting the most out of community resources, by gleaning fruit and vegetables from local orchards and gardens that otherwise would not be harvested. The gleanings are then provided to kitchens at Our Daily Bread, serving meals to any who need them, or the Senior Center lunch program, or similar groups. They are also allowed a share of whatever they themselves can use. Ever leave plums on your tree that are more than you can consume, or take the time to preserve? Ever find yourself with a single zucchini plant that could feed a family of twelve (and only two in your house)? Who you going to call? Grateful Gleaners!

There was a recent article in the New York Times, described on the eclectic blog, Boing Boing, saying that Americans waste 27% of their available food!

Monday, June 9, 2008


With the blessing of the city, a volunteer group called the Willits Healthy Action Team delineated several walking routes through town, marked at key junctures with how many steps you are along the way. The feet indicate the direction to proceed. A Zen Monday offering.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Garden Heritage

Spuria irises grow well in this area; so well, that they often outlast the houses they were originally planted with. They were typical of homes, cabins, and stagecoach stops more than one hundred years ago, so clumps of these graceful flowers can sometimes be found near meadows and fields where buildings once stood. They also persist in town by some of the older homes, and along with flowering quince and climbing roses, Greening apple orchards and mock orange bowers, they hark back to an earlier time in garden fashion. A few more images are in my Overflow blog, linked here.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Little Lake Industries Site

More than a decade ago, this manufacturer of redwood patio furniture was an important employer in Willits. By snooping around on-line, I saw that it was on a list of potential bio-fuel plants back in 1999. That never seems to have happened, and it has stood mostly vacant until recently. Now a local nurseryman uses part of it to warehouse vast quantities of what seems to be bags of planting mix and the like. I took this photo a while ago, but I just noticed yesterday that all of that conveyor/tube/funnel contraption has been completely removed. This becomes the first truly "historic" image on Willits Daily Photo.

Updated view in June.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Biker Barbecue

Last Sunday, local Harley Davidson enthusiasts held a rally and barbecue to benefit Willits Police officer Dave Tiller, currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. The festivities included a raffle and silent auction, as well as two live rock bands. I dropped by for the photo opportunity, and to make a small donation, and found my dentist and dental hygienist, the city planner, one of our beloved postal clerks, at least one downtown businessman, and I think the recently retired fire chief, all among, if not in, the leather-festooned crowd. Cheers to community support for our law-enforcement officers, and to worlds colliding. See more pictures of this event on my Overflow blog linked here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Dull Tuesday?

I know, a pretty dull picture. This was Tuesday in the Community Center auditorium, which is unbearably dull looking any day of the week. Looks like a movie set for a mental hospital mutiny. But no, these are voting booths, standing and waiting for the electorate to come forth and issue their will. 35% of the registered voters in Mendocino county did just that. Remarkably, that's considered a pretty high turnout. But why isn't it more like 90%, okay 70%, every time? And that's not even counting people eligible to register who don't. I guess it's just too dull. I wonder if they'll feel that way when November rolls around.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Junior Horsemen's Playday

Saturday's event was fun for kids of all ages, and the horses seemed to enjoy it too. It was hard to pick just one Daily Photo image, but I think this spontaneous embrace showing the bond between rider and horse says it all.

What I mostly saw was timed sprinting, and I wasn't close enough, or expert enough to get good competition shots, but the spectators had me busy. Click here for additional horsey photos of the event on my overflow blog.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

1500 Free Audio Books on!

If you don't know about it already, lend me your ears! LibriVox is an amazing, globally sourced project of volunteers committed to recording every book that is certifiably in the public domain - either because it was published in the United States before 1923, or because it was otherwise created in the public domain at the outset. Started by a Canadian guy named Hugh in 2005, when he couldn't find inexpensive audiobooks for a long road trip, it has grown from a handful of his helpful friends to a worldwide volunteer base of hundreds of amateur (along with a few spirited pros) readers, editors, project coordinators, and proof listeners. Everybody just uses their computers at home, along with a microphone, to create mp3 files of themselves reading whatever eligible texts they sign on for.

The best part is that nobody puts any copyright or even creative commons restrictions on the resulting material. Whatever public domain texts are being recorded, the recording itself is dedicated to the public domain as well. It's pure cultural altruism, which makes it possible for anyone anywhere in the world with a connection to the internet to download "Jane Eyre", "Huckleberry Finn", "The Works of Tacitus, Vol. 1", or "The United States Bill of Rights" along with other titles in more than 100 languages other than English, and use them in schools, or for the illiterate, or while they knit, or to chop up into a video mash-up on YouTube. Free speech for anyone anywhere. Get it? If you do, please investigate, buy a USB microphone, and get started recording! There are thousands of public domain books yet to be done, and everyone is welcome to help.

Go to and make your speech free. Or just take a listen! Oh, and uh, this photo was taken in the Willits Branch of the county library. We love them.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Paying the Mechanic

With a new muffler and some belts successfully installed in my little old truck, my mechanic now has my payment in hand. It had to be done - the roaring and screeching from my Nissan was getting embarrassing. But Loren at Ron's Muffler always gets the work done on time and under budget.

Thank you to everyone who visited on yesterday's theme day post. It was so fun going around to so many cities, seeing the sights at the sites. There were a lot of events this weekend, and when I have more energy, I'll put up some of those.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June Theme Day: The Corner/Local Shop

Mariposa Market is the best place in town to find organic groceries, nutrition supplements, grooming products, tea sets, and even organic cotton socks. On weekdays, it closes by the time I get home from work, but I do use it on some weekends to get bread and yogurt and dried seaweed. There's no way to miss the giant sunflower mural there on this curve of Main Street. Click here for additional pictures of this market in my Overflow blog.

This is a great day to explore the world as 174 City Daily Photo bloggers respond to the "Corner Shop" theme. Click here to view thumbnails for all of this month's participants. Have fun!