Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wet Dreams

As I left work the other day, I noticed some welcome clouds forming in the northern sky. It wasn't enough to bring us more rain, but there's a slight chance of some predicted for later this week. We are now at Phase 3 water restrictions in Willits, limiting household water use to no more than 250 gallons a day, and prohibiting non-essential water uses like washing cars or sidewalks. It will take a long season of rain to get us out of this drought.

Anyway, as I then looked directly overhead, I saw this soft-looking blot catching the last of the daylight. And you know, silly me, I quickly spied the head of Foghorn Leghorn, the Looney Tunes character, looking down at me and smiling! Am I nuts? Wait, don't answer that.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital

Founded in 1926 through the foresight of Dr. Raymond Babcock, and the funding of Charles S. Howard, Howard Memorial is now a non-profit, non-teaching (both indicators of the best care delivery) rural hospital operated by Adventist Health. The Howard Foundation, owner of the building, still has members of the Howard family on its board of directors, and it is the Foundation that has been raising funds, arranging financing, and overseeing the project to get a new hospital facility built on a different site. This old facility, charming and historic as it is, does not meet current earthquake safety standards specific to hospitals and schools. Seismic studies and architectural plans are all in hand for the new location, and the final step of selecting a construction contractor proceeded and went out to bid. When the Foundation opened the bids, they were in for a shock. Their best offer came in at about 150% of what had been budgeted and financed. That is to say, $19million over their estimated project of $39million. They are now looking at ways to alter the designs and build-out phasing to accommodate this new reality.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

California Native American Day

Saturday was a day for celebrating California Native American traditions at many tribal lands all over the state, but the official Native American Day was Friday. I nearly forgot about it, because the event at the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Rancheria was not well publicized. I arrived in mid-afternoon, and was relieved to see that the dancing was still going on. Their land extends from the western edge of Willits westward into the hills.

The clothing and ornamentation on both the dancers pictured above is strictly for ceremonial dancing. You can even see the tan lines on the young man, showing that he ordinarily likes to wear a tank top, shorts, and full shoes. These costumes, especially on the man, are very specific to the Pomo people, and should not be confused with the traditions of other First Nations of North America. One of the common struggles of all Native American Indians is the fallacy that none of them survived the American conquest. They are now modern people like everyone else, with a rich legacy of cultural traditions. They are US citizens, who vote, serve in the military, attend local schools, and speak English. They are not required to live on tribal lands, but often choose to do so. Please look at my additional photos of this event linked here.

Also, I am pleased to be able to show you a short video, linked here, I took with my camera of one of the dances! It isn't perfect, but it's something.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Farmers Market Band

I think our weekly farmers' market has only a month left to go this season, and with it will go the Farmers' Market Band. The personnel sometimes change a bit, but the music is always refreshing, with a touch of "world beat" in the mix. It makes a lovely background to the browsing of produce and handcrafts. The hat for collecting donations states the money will benefit music education for Willits High Schoolers. The apple must be for the teacher.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Roots of Motive Power Steam Up #4: Steam Roller

This vehicle is one of my favorites at the annual Roots Steam Up: the Buffalo Springfield steam roller. As usual, I took so many pictures of it, it was hard to decide which to feature on the blog. Here, you can see the wood-fueled fire that heats the boiler, through the little air vent on the side. Go to my Overflow blog to see full views of this snazzy classic.

Even today, when I see pavement rollers flattening asphalt on roads, I call them steam rollers, although the modern ones have been powered by petroleum for decades. I hear even younger people use the term "to be steam-rolled" as a figure of speech, denoting being crushed under the will of another person or institution, especially in negotiations. I wonder if they even know about the original equipment? The current Wikipedia article takes a British look at the machines.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miracle Mile #7: LaunderLand

Evergreen Shopping Center anchors the south end of the Main Street Miracle Mile, with a supermarket, a general thrift and drug store, and other odds and ends, including storefronts converted to offices. Popular because it always has an onsite attendant, LaunderLand hums into the night (last wash, 8:30). It was here that I saw my Blog Sister, Petrea, looking groovy in designer wear, a couple of months ago.

(Hope she doesn't mind!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Little Lake Valley Wetlands

As the long, dry season nears its end, the wetland areas of the north end of Little Lake Valley recede to a few green patches. Here, a ring of dry teasel surrounds some still green water grasses and reeds, with their toes sunk in the moist earth. We had one day of wonderful rain last week, and I hope it isn't too much longer before we get a bit more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harvest Festival #2: Solar Ovens

While preparations for the evening meal progressed inside the Grange, the back lot bustled with displays of food system self-sufficiency. Here, three solar ovens show how easy it is to gather enough heat from the sun to cook splendid family meals without using an ounce of wood, gas, or electricity. (Okay, if you don't count the manufacture of the materials to build the ovens.)

The oven on the lower left was made onsite, using cardboard cut and arranged for the purpose, and covered with ordinary aluminum foil. The interior of the box is black to absorb heat, and capped with a clear square of plastic or glass to contain the built-up infrared light reflected from the panels. For folks wanting a ready made oven, one is displayed on the right, ready to fold out and use, with shinier panels. But for the real investment, the large capacity oven stands in the back, with reflection panels like mirrors! According to some information posted about, the interiors of these cookers can eventually reach 375 to 400F in adequate sun exposure, even in the homemade model - perfectly sufficient for most oven recipes. The only catch is adjusting your meal planning for the amount of time this slow method of cooking requires.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Harvest Festival: Dinner

Saturday was a beautiful, clean, crisp, after-the-rain day for the annual Harvest Festival hosted by the Little Lake Grange. The focus was on locally produced food of every sort, with the highlight being a community banquet using only food from within about a fifty mile radius of Willits. Throughout the day, local food vendors, growers, inventors, and home food preservation crafters displayed their ideas, and taught useful skills to visitors. In the photo above, volunteer cooks seasoned root vegetables before roasting them for the evening dinner. Even the salt and marinades were completely locally sourced, from the ground (or sea) up! There are some more pre-dinner pictures on my Overflow blog.

There were so many aspects to this event, I may just succumb to another series of posts, concurrent with the Roots Steam Up series, and the Miracle Mile series, both of which aren't finished yet. Plus, there's all the plain old pictures I want to slip into the blog now and then. Who knew such a quiet, tiny little city of no particular importance would be such a challenge to cram in to an ongoing blog! The mind, uh, bloggles!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roots of Motive Power Steam Up #3: Maytag Washer

While larger equipment puffed away at the museum and Roots grounds, across the street in Recreation Grove, small engine club members displayed their operational antique gasoline powered gadgets. One of my favorites was this 1926 Maytag clothes washer, enthusiastically agitating a garment or two with the power of petroleum.

I seem to have washed away whatever was ailing my computer. Not sure which step did the trick, but I should probably take out the trash more regularly.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Miracle Mile #6: High Speed DSL

Another one of the typical motels on the southern strip of Main, the Holiday Lodge offers two amenities often demanded by travelers: a swimming pool, and free DSL connections for computer users.

I'm having computer problems, including browser function that comes and goes. If I don't get back to you, it means I've slipped out of cyberspace for the time being.

Friday, September 19, 2008


A combination of County courthouse and City police station, this is probably one of our more Minimalist buildings. I'm not exactly sure how pools of potential jurors are drawn up, but I've heard they use voter registration rolls to call people up for duty. American readers will know what I'm talking about. Whenever a criminal or civil hearing or trial requires a jury of twelve people to listen and decide the outcome, ordinary citizens are "called" (with a paper notification in the mail) to appear at a designated courthouse. The court calls far more people than will be required, so the lawyers from both sides of a case can ask each potential juror pertinent questions before they are appointed. They want to make sure you aren't badly biased against one position or the other before hearing the specific facts of a case first. When twelve people are chosen, everyone else can go home, usually with a sigh of relief.

It is the strangest thing, but in Mendocino county, I find I am called almost once every year! When I lived (and voted) in Sacramento, I was called up only one time in fifteen years. Does Mendocino have so many more crimes per capita than other places that we have to be called so often?! It's a big mystery to me, and is one of the hidden "downsides" of living in this enchanted domain.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heading Out

For everyone who is eager to know exactly where Willits is located, well, here are some clues. Mapquest tells me that Ghirardelli Square, in San Francisco, is 2 hours and 25 minutes from Ardella's in Willits. And because you will have to travel through Santa Rosa to get there, you may want to add ten or twenty minutes to that estimate. Ukiah is the Mendocino County Seat - headquarters for the government of our county. Distances in the US are still measured in miles, so that's what the numbers stand for. Heading north, in the upper picture, my photo isn't so clear. (I know, I could have gotten in closer on these, but then you lose context. Click the images to enlarge them.) Laytonville is 22 miles away, Eureka (a fabulous town, in my opinion) is 132 miles north, going through some lovely redwood parks, with Crescent City way up there at 216 miles away. Now you know. Willits awaits you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Graffiti Fight

I found evidence of paint-roller activity under the rail viaduct at the southernmost end of Walker Road, in Little Lake Valley, as graffiti and gang tagging are kept at bay. The moss is certainly the worse for wear. I love moss almost as much as I love lichen, so you can understand my sadness.

GraffitiFight Jigsaw PuzzleGraffitiFight Jigsaw Puzzle

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I went in to Paradise Cafe to cool off and get a "smoothie" last weekend, and saw this tableau across the room. This cafe offers free wireless internet connection along with sandwiches, salads, and blended fruit shakes and vegetable juices. This gal's hairstyle suggests an enthusiasm for reggae music, and the luggage behind her suggests she is on the road. She probably lives somewhere in the San Francisco bay area, and has been to one of the many music events held in the summertime up north of Laytonville.

Other locations for free wireless internet connectivity in Willits include JD Redhouse, Shanachie's, and the Willits branch of the County Library.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roots of Motive Power Steam Up #2: Ranch Car

While the heart of Roots of Motive Power activities come from steam engine restoration and operation, they attend to many other details of railway history. One of my favorites to see is this Great Northern Railroad Ranch Car, from the Empire Builder trains of the 1950s. Bobbie Yokum wrote a fascinating history of this car for the Roots website, and is a key volunteer getting the restoration done. One of her huge projects is getting all thirteen counter seats restored with cowhide style upholstery. The first one is in, and looks great. Read her description of how this gem ended up on the Roots campus.

To see some other rail equipment interiors, click here for the Overflow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dancing Elephants, Leaping Tigers

A traveling circus was brought to the new hospital site on East Hill Road, with part of the profits going to the building fund. I'll admit, I was a little surprised to see the advertising posters include exotic animals as part of the entertainment. I thought that kind of circus was a thing of the past. I much prefer to see the human acrobatics type of shows. I simply didn't attend this one on that basis. But various activists wrote letters to the newspapers and community blogs with their concerns, and these two folks indicated their support of non-animal circuses by displaying signs to people arriving to the evening's show.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some Close, Some Distant: Half a Year Done

Half a year has passed on Willits Daily Photo, with a mix of details and wider vistas. Like these friendly but silent cattle pictured here, more folks seem to be watching what goes on here than when I started out. In the beginning, I tried to keep my descriptions to a minimum, just wanting the snapshots to stand on their own. I thought this would just be my secret little "thing" to do. But as I began visiting some of the other City Daily Photo Blogs, the pleasures of interacting revealed themselves.

My special thanks today go to some of my first comment-leaving visitors. Jana of Susanville started her City Daily Photo Blog around the same time I did, and it was nice to hear from someone in another small northern California town, but she developed computer challenges, and doesn't seem to blog any more. Benjamin Madison of Victoria, Canada has been an encouraging spirit from very early on, and because our blogs started within days of each other, I consider him my Blog Brother. His photography is really not to be missed, and I am humbled by his kindness. A couple of Kiwis were quick to make me feel welcome; Sakiwi of Hamilton, and Ben of Nelson. They also served to show how unlimited the geography of a blog audience can be. And here I thought the interest in Willits would be limited to the few people in Willits who know me. True to his spirit as the Ambassador of Blogging, Abraham Lincoln (yes, related to that president) came around with generous comments for this new kid on the block. He struggles with the pain of arthritis, yet his comments grace City Daily Photo Blogs the world over, and like everyone, I welcomed his kind notice. Gerald England, of Hyde, England, was also quick to come by and notify me that he was including me in his vast archives of daily photo bloggers old and new. Someone mysteriously named iBlowfish stopped by with good wishes, and when I followed his profile to Cleveland, I was blown away by his stylish photography. I'm sad to see he has stopped, even as he was listed as a Blogger of Note by the folks at Blogger.

I am grateful to all visitors to Willits Daily Photo, and I realize many of you don't leave comments, but check back to see new posts once in a while anyway. My little visit counting widgets tell me that I get around 50 or 60 visits a day, most days now. A good quarter of those are probably just me, but still that's more than I expected when I started. We'll see if I can can keep this up for a full year. Thanks again!

Some more pictures of hay are on my Overflow Blog.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Miracle Mile #5: Gribaldo's

I'm not sure how long Gribaldo's has been in Willits, but I would guess decades. They have an old fashioned steam table, all-you-can-eat buffet including scrambled eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, french toast, biscuits and gravy, if you're really starving. If you're looking for cowboys, a lot of them eat here. This also used to be the Greyhound bus stop, but it looks like the stop was moved across the street to McDonalds. I seem to recall that too many bus passengers were making the dangerous crossing to the fast food places on the other side, and getting hurt. At least the public telephone here has a dial tone.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The View from Amy's World: Peaches on 9/11

The View from Amy's World: Peaches on 9/11

Annual Roots of Motive Power Steam-Up Weekend

Starting as a handful of volunteers helping the County Museum repair and operate old machines, Roots of Motive Power has flourished into an independent non-profit of enthusiastic men and women with a vast collection of antique steam, diesel, and gas powered machinery of every description. Most of it, however, is directly related to the railroading and logging industries of the local area. Years of planning and hard work resulted in a fine restoration shed and work yard, along with a completed loop track for testing and demonstrating the restored railcars and locomotives they work so hard on. The weekend after Labor Day always sees the greatest participation and variety of all their events through the year. In the photo above, volunteers prepare a diesel locomotive for a day of pulling industrial flat cars, and a caboose full of eager riders, around the loop.

I have loads of photos from this event, and will intermittently post some as a series, along with liberal use of my Overflow blog. You can also see plenty of photos on the Roots website linked above.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Peppers, Tomatoes, Basil

I needed to pause for some refreshment at the farmer's market after all that driving around on the Miracle Mile. My point and shoot camera does different things with the light there, depending on how I tilt it, or where I center it. I like what it did to these late summer vegetables.

PeppersTomatoesBasil Jigsaw PuzzlePeppersTomatoesBasil Jigsaw Puzzle

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Miracle Mile #4: Les Schwab Tire Center

This is a automobile tire chain store, found in most western US states. I confess, I used to watch some of those TV shows involving complete and outrageous renovations of junker cars, and would fantasize about choosing decorative modifications for myself. But no more such ideas for me, unless they make Green Freedom™ a reality really soon. Apparently the physics all checks out, but they haven't figured out how to make sure a few private entities get filthy rich on the research funded by public dollars yet. I'm sure they'll get that licked just as soon as all vast profits from every possible drop of oil have been concentrated in a few pockets first.

Okay, sorry. It's just a retread tire store. And it looks neat as a pin.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Miracle Mile #3: Lark Motel Neon

The Lark currently has the best maintained neon on this strip of South Main. The single story building of rooms is in the long, shoebox form running back from the street, typical of the 1940s and '50s heyday of "motor hotels".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Trotting Poodle

I have to interrupt the Miracle Mile series to bring you a photo I just captured yesterday. It is very dear to me, because, much like the girl riding her horse through upper Main Street, I have been hoping against hope, for months, that I could capture this poodle being exercised by his bicycle riding owner. And like the horse, he has always been a moving target; that elusive, obscure object of desire, so to speak. Well, finally, I saw him coming, at close range, my camera out, the light good. I prepared the focus for the spot they would pass through, and bam. I got it. Yay!

I wish you could see this dog in motion, because he has the most beautiful, graceful gait. His owner knows just the right speed that is comfortable, and they can be found perambulating the northern part of town quite regularly. This was out at the Roots of Motive Power work yard, early on their annual show day (more of that later).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Miracle Mile #2: Willlits Buffet

Bless their hearts. They got an extra "L" in their sign.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Miracle Mile

I'm not exactly sure how to proceed with this one. I've largely ignored the southern half of Main Street through Willits, but it is what it is, and I should just face facts. I don't know what this stretch of road looked like before, but sometime in the middle of the last century, it was decided to widen Main to four lanes, with a center lane for turning. Along with the widening came automobile oriented businesses, including motels, drive-in fast foods, and auto supply and sales. It was laid out in an age when cars were "king of the road", and the wide unshaded swaths of hard pavement extended deep into the lots on either side of Main. Today, some of the heat and hard edges of cement and asphalt are mitigated with trees at odd intervals. But pedestrians are not what the developers had in mind, even though more recent attitudes have changed. The US flags line the street because it was Labor Day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another Ominous Sign

On the other side of Hollands Lane from the goat farm of yesterday, I found this insect trap attached to a large oak tree. I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the only insect the Department of Agriculture would be looking for is the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter. The small, leaf-hopping insect seems to have come as far north as Mendocino county by traveling on horticultural supply plants shipped from its native territory. The problem is that it carries a bacteria that kills grapevines. Wine grapes are a huge part of the legal agricultural economy in Mendocino, and many jobs and dollars are at stake. By taking small samples like this, the scientists can get an idea of the types of insects they have in the area, and whether or not they should worry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Goat Greetings

This blog is a great motivator to get out and explore Little Lake Valley, through all its nooks and crannies, and not just to drive around, but to stop and get out even more. I found a convenient turnout across Holland Lane from a corral of goats. I walked over to take a few pictures of the fair sized herd, and was greeted by a few bleats from among them. They didn't seem particularly alarmed, or even attentive to my presence. But all at once, more than half a dozen of them crouched and evacuated their bowels and bladders. Was this reflexive of feeding anticipation? Or a quirk of goat culture, unknown to me, offered in friendly obeisance? I was downwind. I didn't stay long.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cool, Clear Water

That's it. That's the water supply for the city of Willits, photographed on the last day of August. Adding to the drama, there was a vulture up in that snag, sunning himself. The City has already declared a Phase II Water Emergency, with limits on the days and hours residential users can irrigate. If those measures don't work soon, the City will have to go to Phase III, which puts strict caps on daily water use for residences, and scaled cuts for other users. Our water supply now is at the level we were at a month later in the year, last year, which was also too dry. Let's hope the rain comes back on schedule (November?), because we have very little wiggle room.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September Theme Day: Sister Cities

While Willits is not formally involved with Sister Cities International, some groups of citizens have created ties to specific places out in the world. One of those connections is between staff members at Howard Memorial Hospital, and a hospital and orphanage in Valley of the Angels, Honduras. Medical personnel work with the hospital to provide what assistance and supplies they can, while administrative support staff go to the orphanage to spend time with the children and bring books or other useful items. In the photo above, Patsy from the administration team stands on the grounds of Howard Hospital in Willits, and shows three of her favorite photos from a previous visit to Valley of the Angels, including some of the angels at the orphanage. Even as I post this, she and other team members are down in Honduras again. Bless them all, and special thanks to Patsy for graciously cooperating with my strange request.

The first day of each month is always a Theme Day for the worldwide community of City Daily Photo Bloggers, and I invite you to take a look at how their communities connect themselves to the diverse world we live in. Click here to view thumbnails for all the participants.

Thanks also to Jay Gordon, and his fine work writing in the Nickel & Dime about this special effort by Howard Hospital staff, which brought it to my attention.