Sunday, November 30, 2008

More Comfort Food

After all the running around of Thanksgiving week, I needed to get some laundry done. Which put me in Evergreen Shopping Center, which put me just a wander away from the Super Taco restaurant while my clothes dried. After so much turkey and potatoes and gravy, it was nice to sit down to a pretty dish of another kind of comfort food: tamales.

There are lots of circles in this picture, but it is not yet theme day... just a hint to absent-minded City Daily Photo Bloggers to be ready to go tomorrow!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Night Sky in Blue

This home on wheels parked next to the County Library, possibly to pick up the WiFi signal, or the go inside to enjoy the printed treasures found there. Whoever owns this appreciates the power of words, some of which you can see by clicking on this image to its full size.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Blue Sky at Night

Mendocino county is rich with artists, and the Willits area is no exception. We have musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, actors, poets, and artisanal craftworkers of every sort, and often widely known. Blue Sky Gallery provides a retail outlet for a select few of them, with art glass, jewelery, paintings and ceramics regularly on offer. You probably don't remember that I posted their front step many months ago. That koi pond is still one of my favorite art finds.

With daylight in short supply, it turns out some of our shops are easier to photograph at night! Okay, Willits may not be Yellowknife, but still it's dark before I leave work. Today, many of these uptown Main Street businesses organized early shopping hours, because for some mysterious reason, people seem to love to shop for Christmas gifts the day after our Thanksgiving holiday. Personally, I can't imagine getting up in the dark, early hours of the morning to shop, but if you want to dive in starting at 6:00 AM this morning, these merchants will be ready to help you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Food Bank

I'm thankful I still have enough to be able to give, and to be graced by those who will receive it.

I'm so thankful that my mother is vibrant and thriving in her own home over closer to the ocean, happy to be self-sufficient and able to meet her daily needs among the splendors of nature, near the village of her upbringing. That's where I'll be visiting for the next couple of days, so I'll be out of reach of any computers. I wish health and contentment to all my blog visitors around the world. I'm thankful for you as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Also Fresh and Clean

I spotted this gleaming white house just down a side street from the post office and had to get a picture. Every bit of shrub and grass was pristinely manicured as well. My impulse would be to plant a riotously excessive flower garden against this vast blank canvas. The violet and lavender paint trim is a good start.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fresh and Clean

In contrast to yesterday's crumbled wall, this freshly molded walkway was installed between the Willits Center for the Arts and the Carnegie building, to allow cleaner access to the back door of the WCA. Such cultural organizations are already operating on a shoestring budget (very little money), and are wise to complete whatever repair and maintenance they can before funds get even tighter. I would have liked to see some autumn leaf imprints on this cement, but these guys seemed intent on cleaning all that away.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Parking Lot Re-Think

The Willits Post Office parking lot is notoriously difficult to navigate, consisting of four spaces facing east, and four facing west. Years ago, somebody decided to build this cinder block wall right up to the point of entrance, not imagining how soon cars need to swing around to miss hitting the vehicles parked behind them. Either all at once, or gradually, vehicles have helped to solve part of the constraint by knocking the corner of the fence down. This barrier now slopes back about three or four feet before resuming its original form. During weekdays at peak hours, you would be amazed at the dynamic maneuvering of cars and pedestrians that goes on here, in a community with a very high demand for post office boxes (thousands), in addition to the special transactions at the front counter. I'm glad I got a bike.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Only a Memory

A run-down Skunk Motel (it was named for the well known excursion train operating here, not the animal) was finally demolished several years ago, and the empty lot served as some overflow parking for the Mariposa Market. Then temporary fences went up and the heavy equipment moved in, pushing, digging, grading. Soon, construction will be complete on a new building for the market.

There are a few other things that have been pictured on Willits Daily Photo that are no longer to be seen in the real world of today:

1. The Lion of Judah shop has been clearing out of its space. I don't know if it's going somewhere else.

2. The abandoned service station office is now not only vacant, but torn down.

3. Three miniature mares were torn apart and killed by two wandering pitbull dogs last week. The paper says a fourth was maimed, but may recover.

4. The Princess Parking Only sign at the Community Center/City Hall has been removed, following a letter of snarky complaint by someone to the local newspaper. The killjoy claimed such nonsense that it must have cost her tax dollars or similar. She made it clear that some issue had not gone well for her at the city offices, so denying the humanity of public employees was her revenge. One less reason to move to Willits after all.

5. Many abandoned railcars (including the manzanita bush) on the unused NCRA railroad sidings have been scrapped and removed. The few that remain are consolidated behind a fence, apparently waiting for transport elsewhere by their owners.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hillside Hives

Not long ago, I took a Sunday drive to see what Little Lake Valley had to offer in the autumn sunshine. Out on the Reynolds Highway, on the northeast circuit of the valley, these gleaming white beehive frames caught my eye with their brilliant contrast to the oaks and rocks and bay tree. They make another component of the local food web.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The "wheelie-bins" used for household solid waste disposal are gray with black hinged lids, and the curbside bins for mixed recycling (yes, we don't separate materials at home) are blue. Garden clippings and leaves go into a muted green bin. But if you want the exciting colors, take your excess cardboard, mixed paper, and glass right over to the solid waste transfer station. Convenient ramps lead right up to the tops of the truck-sized collection containers, neatly labeled for their proper contents.

It's true. Americans have a remarkably different idea of the fit of their clothes than Europeans do. We don't like anything too binding or snug. We like the blood to circulate easily to all the important places, with room to breathe.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Deliveries Come to an End

Our deliveries from Live Power Farm CSA are due to end next week, for this season. Subscriptions for the next season begin in May. In the interim, the farmer's market will continue indoors, and I expect some cold-weather produce will be available there.

I know I've mentioned the efforts in Willits to develop a more localized economy, not only to keep money circulating among local businesses, but also to build our own food production base in the face of threats to our food security. Willits was featured in a documentary called "Escape from Suburbia" (and may have been in the precursor, "End of Suburbia", but I'm not sure), and I found a promo/excerpt on You Tube called Escape from Suburbia returns to Willits, CA. I know almost all of the speakers, and some even know me. No, I'm not in it, but I hope you'll enjoy seeing this six minute clip anyway. 8^)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ivy on Utility Meters

With apologies, I'm feeling pressed for words, time, and pictures just now, so I dug this one out of my archives. It makes me think of Picasso's cubist faces.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

California Buckeye Nuts

Our native species of chestnut trees, Aesculus californica, are heavy with mature nuts right now. I've pictured them in flower before, and now you see the result of the butterfly's work. Their rinds split open to reveal the smooth brown nut that will soon fall to the ground. The longer they are exposed to light, the darker their brown color becomes. I think you can probably see how they got their name.

A wonderful book about many of the plants used by California Indians is The Natural World of the California Indians. They occasionally ate these nuts, but it was more difficult to leach the toxins from them than it was the oak acorns, so they were used only if a particular acorn crop failed to produce enough to eat.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Echoes of the Past

About five years ago, an extension to the Mendocino County Museum was completed, crowned with this big barn-like structure called the Engine House. The large matching doors on front and back reveal a punch-through of full scale railroad tracks that connect all the way back to the Roots of Motive Power restoration shed, and their now completed loop track. Roots volunteers were highly instrumental in getting the county to build the structure, and they themselves laid all the track through it. They also bring various pieces of rail equipment into the space for display and special events like the Steam Up I showed you in September.

Back when this building was done, I got talking with a former director of the museum about the structure. He said the design integrates elements from an old barn just on the west edge of town, from nearly a century ago. A then-young man named Mark Walker built the earlier barn with a tilted square window and clerestory section on the roof. Walker died in about 2001 at the age of 107, but had been a rich resource of local history and folk art for the museum's public historians up until then. It was in honor of his contributions that the architecture was made to reflect some of his work. I recently decided to get some photos of the old barn, to compare with the engine house.

The old barn still stands, but like many agricultural buildings of its generation, it is finally deteriorating and may not stand for many decades more. The owners of many of these barns could correctly claim that they were constructed from a single redwood. The ancient trees were gigantic, and redwoods are famously resistant to rot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


The Willits Chess Club hosted their first open tournament on Saturday, with players of all ages in the county invited to register for the day-long event. The assembly room of the Grange Building was organized to have the adults playing on one side, and the youth on the other. From the club's website, it looks like an effort has been made to include chess in the classrooms at Blosser Lane Elementary School in order to foster skills in abstract analysis through the fun of a game. While the club has pictures of both boys and girls enjoying chess, when I stopped by this tournament to take pictures, only men were playing in the adult group on this day.

No, I wasn't interested in playing. Yes, I'm an intelligent person. Looks like the black queen in this picture caught the white king with no where to run.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Autumn Patio Lunch

Afternoon temperatures have started to rise into the upper 70s Fahrenheit, and the skies have cleared a bit. Lunch on the patio at the Purple Thistle can include fried wontons filled with roasted garlic and sundried tomato goat cheese, with a raspberry coulee. Oh, how we suffer in Willits!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Willits City Council

Wednesday night's city council meeting had the full array of officials in attendance. The mayor sits directly in the center of the dais with three of her fellow council members on her right, and one on her left. Then there are the city manager, city lawyer, city clerk, and city planner. Their regular meetings are the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, except for Thanksgiving week.

As always, the meeting started with the US Pledge of Allegiance, performed by all citizens in the room. Then members of the community were invited to address the council with formal presentations of reports, or requests for action to be taken by the officials. When the speaker is finished, members of the council may ask for points of clarification, and then invite anyone else to step forward to speak to the same issue before deciding among themselves what action to take. Decision-making discussions must be conducted by the council during these public meetings, and not in any secret or "off the record" conversations together, so that the public may know how their local elected officials have made their decisions, and their reasoning for voting the way they do on the issues. Otherwise, they would be in violation of The Brown Act, a California law meant to keep local governments open and to reduce corruption. This is usually described as "transparency" in worldwide policy discussions.

At this meeting, a neighborhood leader described a dangerous pedestrian crossing on a state highway running through town, and asked the council to send a joint letter of support for a safer design to the State Transportation agency. Another speaker described the results of a community trash clean-up day, and thanked the council for supporting that in the past. Yet another speaker described his disappointment that newly built single family homes, in a recently approved development, had not been required to use drought tolerant landscaping instead of turf grass, which he said was contrary to the city's already adopted policies.

The entire meeting was recorded and broadcast live by a Community Television camera, to give even greater access to the proceedings for the citizenry. A few more pictures of the meeting are on my Overflow blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Backlit Bunch Grass

This is one of those topics where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I worked in a geographic support position for a team of zoologists, botanists, and plant ecologists back in the late 1980s. I loved learning from them whenever I could, especially when I could talk my way onto a rare field trip with them into the natural areas of California. But I am without real authority on the topics, and am simply a lay-natural historian, if anything. In starting this post, I ended up on a hour-long internet browse that ultimately had me surprised to see a few familiar names on a current staff list of the old work unit. But I didn't come up with the factoid I was looking for.

I will assert that this is a photograph of some variety of California native bunchgrass. Europeans commonly call their own related natives "tussock" grass. I was looking for online verification of a vague belief I seem to carry in my brain, that native grasses now comprise only about ten percent of the wild grasses we see in California today, by volume. These natives are actually perennial plants with astonishingly deep roots and long lives. The annual grasses that dominate our hills and valleys are exotics from Mediterranean Europe, which originated with the Spanish conquest and their introduction of cattle ranching here hundreds of years ago.

The bunchgrasses I'm claiming you see here are sitting right in the bed of Baechtel Creek, southwest of Willits along Muir Mill Road, one of the many feeder streams in the Outlet Creek watershed. I photographed them before our most recent rains came, and this winter they will be periodically inundated well over their heads with rainstorm water. There was only a trickle of water wending its way through these tufts in October. Annual grasses don't do so well in such a cycle.

If you are a botanist passing by this page and can correct me on this identification, please leave a comment. I realize I'm using casual language, but that's what I do. It could be that the abundant plants here are the product of a restoration project.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fifi in the Rain

Fifi (le Velocipede) was safely tethered to the front porch while significant rainfall pounded down around her and the redwood trees beyond. Yes, she is festooned with fake flower garlands. Is there something wrong with that?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Memorial Building

Veterans Day, as you may also learn from many other North American and European City Daily Photo bloggers, is also known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, and marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. At the time the commemoration was instituted, I'm sure it was hoped that WWI was the War to End All Wars. Sadly, it was not, and now we remember our veterans from all wars, and honor those who survive.

The Veterans Memorial Building in Willits is a fine old meeting hall for veterans groups, and used to also house the local county court proceedings.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I spent about an hour on Sunday out around Little Lake Valley, looking for more typical scenes of ranches and woods to photograph. The broken clouds created nice light, and textured skies, which improves the odds of catching something presentable for a quick-clicker like me. I got out of my truck near the Davis Creek Bridge, and grabbed some pastoral images, then looked down at the fence in front of me. It looks like horse hair caught in a barb on the wire fence. It looked too heavy to be human hair, and it was too long to have come from cattle. It must have hurt to pull away from that.

It also did not come from a fantasy creature. I am sad to say that The Willits News recently printed an account of a "b--foot" sighting, written by one of their paid staff "reporters". This is at least the second time this year they have run a story that details someone being taken in by a hoax, and writing it as if the hoax were true, without any sensible research or quotes. I don't fault the people who were fooled, I fault the paper for printing it. If they feel compelled to "entertain" us with this nonsense, they should provide a separately formatted column for such things.

If you find this blog post by Googling b--foot, and feel an impulse to give me descriptions and links of "proof", or to pile on with links to disputations, don't do it. Your speech is not constitutionally protected here, and I will be swift to nuke any such time-wasting commentary. I'm even tired of seeing myself talk about this. Go instead to The Willits News website and comment on their story. That's what you were looking for in the first place. There's a long discussion going on over there, and it has vastly greater numbers of readers than this blog. This picture, above, just shows evidence of a painful moment for the backside of a horse.

On a brighter note, there are some shots of country scenery, photographed at the same spot, on my Overflow blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Locally Based Economics

The shop with two names, Cat's Meow/Trillium, keeps its banner, encouraging locally focused economics, up all year. A large portion of us own one of their "Willits" T-shirts, as displayed in the picture above. Mine's a nice, milk chocolate brown.

Colors have meaning and history all their own in different cultures. For a long time, red was the symbol of communism and labor and extreme leftist politics. But when Reagan became president, it was known that his wife's favorite color was red, and she used it in decorating and clothing. All through the 80s, it was fashionable for men to wear red ties with their business suits. Then the news agencies started using red to designate Republican victories on maps of the states of the US, during political campaigns. And because the US flag colors are red, white, and blue, the states favoring Democrats were colored blue, where not too many decades ago the liberals would have been pejoratively called "reds" or "pinkos" in keeping with the Communist use of the color.

Anyway, the red star on these shirts seems to impart more of an Old West feeling than any sympathy with Old Communism. It's more likely that, when I wear mine, I should have to explain that, 'No, really, I'm a Liberal!' The world keeps spinning.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

WiFi at the Pub

I've never been one for much hanging out at bars and pubs, but the night after the election I ventured over to Shanachie's. I was able to get the last serving of sparkling wine, since they had depleted their supply in the celebrations the night before, and could chat with some friendly people. The WiFi connection is available until 8pm, so this pair enjoyed a pitcher of beer along with their web surfing on the quieter side of the room.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Waiting Out the Storm

A sharp-shinned hawk waited out a cool, light rain storm while overlooking the Gordon Logan Recreation Park a couple of days ago. I did not know Mr. Logan, but he is remembered as a great leader and mentor who could spot people's talents, and could make many an idle speculation on the part of others turn into completed and tangible assets for the City of Willits. He did not live to see the completion of these community sports fields, but he had everything to do with making them happen.

The weather has been incredibly generous, with intermittent but continual rain for all of the past week, and projected into the next.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Loose Garlic

With the end of the traditional Farmer's Market season, we recently learned that it will continue, for the first time, indoors each Thursday afternoon at the Community Center. But I'll miss the beautiful light that filtered through the towering trees of City Park.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope for a New Beginning

Rebuilding national dignity and sanity is a tall order, and can happen only with everyone's participation and care. There is no going back, just forward one step at a time.

This is another view of Little Lake Valley from Willits-Hearst Road, beside an oak tree, with beams of light streaming across Willits in the distance.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Today, American citizens fulfill their duty to vote for their choice of candidates for President of the United States. This time, it seems, the whole world is holding its breath.

Vote Jigsaw PuzzleVote Jigsaw Puzzle

Monday, November 3, 2008

Art Butterfield Memorial Photography Show

The fifth annual Willits Photo Club show, now named in honor of a late and inspiring member, opened Saturday night with a lovely and well attended reception. The latest information I have indicates there were 41 photographers exhibiting 318 photographs in all. This show runs through November 30th, and gallery hours are Thursdays through Sundays. Check the Willits Center for the Arts website for more specifics.

Right, so up above there, do you see the black and white photo of the jagged crest of the awe-inspiring Patagonian Andes? And next to it, the wraiths of clouds caressing the sheer granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley? Those aren't mine.

Mine are the four colored canvases stacked, meaningfully enough I thought, next to an open glass panel door. Each depict openings which are shut, in some way. But really, they are just three walls and a railroad car, and were posted on this blog earlier in the year. When I did catch a few people looking at them, the expressions were typically gape-mouthed bafflement. This is the first time I ever put up anything of mine in an art gallery, so some seriously narcissistic curiosity kicked in and I tended very much to linger in the front lobby area to see how people might respond. Or if they would even look.

Finally, someone mercifully reminded me that there were a lot of spectacular photos to see in the two gallery showrooms, the rest of the lobby, the hallway, the reception room, the stairwell, and the vast upstairs gallery and events venue. Did I mention there were 318 photographs, and a lot of people looking at them? Kudos to the hard working volunteers from the Photo Club, who spent countless hours organizing and installing this event. All I did was put my own up on the wall.

To see more of the reception for this show, please look at my Overflow blog. And of course, there's an Animoto, for those of you who like that sort of thing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Shed Vines

In this photo from just a few days ago, these scarlet trumpet flower vines were a brilliant chartreuse. In the last two days of rain, they seem much more yellow, and ready to fall. This shed sometimes serves as a home for Fifi (le Velocipede).

Tomorrow, look for photos from Saturday's 5th annual Willits Photo Club photo show.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November Theme Day: Books

Librarians are passionate about what they do. From the first free circulating library founded in Willits a hundred years ago, to the high tech, multi-format information transmission of today, librarians are on the front line of preserving a free and democratic society. Without each citizen being able to access anything in the universe of ideas, truly reasoned decisions based on individual evaluation cannot be made. If state or commercial entities are allowed to scrutinize who is reading what, or filter the available ideas through book bans and internet extortion, then the lights are snuffed out on democracy, and even civilization itself.

In this photo, a laptop computer user accesses the vast web of information, art, and ideas in all their variety around the world, by using the WiFi signal available from within the Willits branch of the county library system. Very often, cars and trucks are parked in this lot after hours, filled with people connecting to the internet at this wireless hot spot. I hope they know about Project Gutenberg and Librivox.

On the first day of each month, City Daily Photo Bloggers, like me, participate in a new theme together. There are so many ways of seeing and thinking about books around the world. Click here to view thumbnail photographs for all the City Daily Photo Blog Theme Day participants.