Saturday, January 31, 2009

Outlet Creek Heads North

I ventured to the northernmost end of Little Lake Valley to find the convergence of three "paths" leading out of this blog's territory. One of them is Outlet Creek, the destination of the valley's watershed, which all flows north to the Eel River, which flows even further north before turning west to the Pacific Ocean.

I'm sad to hear that this may be the highest water level we'll see in it for the year. More than sad, I'm alarmed!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Deer, Deer, Deer...

Black-tailed deer are very common in our coast ranges, and one of their favorite things to do is cross rural roads at dusk. Smart drivers take blind turns at more moderate speeds in the evenings and nighttime, knowing that to damage a "deer-in-the-headlights"* is to damage your vehicle as well. You can drive past them pretty closely, but if you stop and get out, they "high-tail it" (run away), because you're doing something unexpected.

They can sometimes be seen grazing in the valley pastures alongside horses and cattle, but they mix in a lot of browsing of tender new shrub growth and low hanging tree leaves into their diet as well. Often, an old orchard looks as if someone pruned all the limbs and twigs about five or six feet from the ground, but actually the work is done by deer. In the autumn, they love to eat fallen apples, and rural gardeners need to protect their rosebushes from being completely stripped of leaves.

*This phrase is often used to describe someone staring wide-eyed in confusion in an overwhelming circumstance.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Muir Lane

Muir Lane is actually an alley running behind business properties from the Van Hotel on Commercial Street, south to the Henry Baker Muir department store property now occupied by J.D. Redhouse. Reading a biographical sketch of the man from 1914, Muir was a shrewd businessman with his hand in lumbering, milling, retailing, banking, energy development, telecommunications, and land brokering. There's no mention of any relationship to John Muir, the noted conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Three Layers

To show the contrast with a manzanita shrub's bark I posted a week ago, here is the trunk of a madrone tree. You can see where two past years growth didn't completely peel away. I'm sure I don't need to point out the delightful moss misguidedly creeping up the transient surface from below.

Hilda of My Manila daily photo blog, tagged me day before yesterday to reveal five details about myself so, like peeking at the layers of a madrone, here goes:

1. As student body president of my elementary school, I discovered politics was not for me.
2. My great-great-great grandfather was a Gunner in the Royal Artillery during the Napoleonic Wars.
3. I like my eggs scrambled, soft.
4. I love old Nat King Cole recordings.
5. I'm an Aquarius sun, Aries moon, and Libra ascendant in the Western zodiac, and was born in the Chinese Year of the Earth Pig. (Do you know your astrological signs?)

Now I'm supposed to tag five other people. Let's see if they are up to the challenge!

1. Ron in Fort Bragg, California, USA
2. Kris in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
3. Petrea in Pasadena, California, USA
4. Sara in Mashhad, Iran
5. Meead in Portland, Oregon, USA

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day wherever Jewish people live. The systematic gathering up and execution of millions of European Jews, by the Nazi Party of Germany and collaborators in their occupied countries during World War II, was based on the ethnicity of the victims, not their degree of religious practice. In fact, ethnic Jews who had converted to Christianity and married Christians were hunted and killed as well. Having just one Jewish grandparent was enough to "qualify" for the death camps. This "genetic" component of the Holocaust is what made it a "genocide". The other ethnic group targeted for death were the Roma (gypsies). (It was also the biological origins of Tutsis in Rwanda that subjected them to massacre by extremist Hutus in the 1990s which made that a genocide as well.)

In addition to the genocidal policies of the Nazi regime, they rounded up and executed political dissidents like union organizers and Communist Partisans, and a notable religious minority, the Jehovah's Witnesses. These victims were killed for their personal beliefs, not their genetic makeup. It was through the Witnesses' own communications network that they first got word out from Germany what was happening in the internment camps. But then, as today, "peculiar" people were not taken seriously, and those very early warnings were ignored. On this Day of Remembrance, I remember them too.

Translated from a poem by German Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

See an academic's research on the origins of the oft quoted and variable poem.

For further information about genocide in modern times, and US policy decisions in various case studies, see "A Problem From Hell" by Samantha Power.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Churchill Slept Here

According to the Willits News, Winston Churchill stayed at the Van Hotel on September 13, 1929 with some other associates on their way from Canada to San Francisco. Are we strategically placed? Or just a celebrity magnet?

VanHotelDetail Jigsaw PuzzleVanHotelDetail Jigsaw Puzzle

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sparkling Craftsman

The City Daily Photo blogger of South Pasadena has, with no small amount arrogance, issued a Craftsman Photo Capture Challenge to her cohorts in the San Gabriel Valley. I sniff in her general direction when I point out that northern California has many lovely enclaves of the hundred year old style, and I'm not too humble to start throwing it down from right here in Willits. This spectacular example seems to have a more modern installation of red brick for the lower front porch, but everything else stands up to period scrutiny, and the overall effect is charming.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Engine Tender

The picture books and films of old steam locomotives always seemed to have a little box of coal heaped in an open car just behind them, when I was a kid. We naturally assumed it was full of fuel for the fires that kept everything going. Almost half a century into my earthly consciousness, I finally asked a knowledgeable railroader about it when I didn't see any coal on this "tender". It turns out that much of what these carry is a big supply of water to feed to the engine for steam! The coal, if there is any, usually sits up in a funnel-shaped hopper, surrounded by a U-shaped enclosed tank containing the water. So all those childhood illustrations were sort of camouflaged, unless you knew what questions to ask. Also, I always thought they were only black, but this beautifully maintained Simpson tender car is a spectacularly cheerful orange. Note that rolled up hose on top. Big clue. The things I learn living in Willits.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Younger Than Springtime, Are You...

One of our local bloggers, Ron Bloomquist of Walking Fort Bragg, is now in Washington state caring for his mother-in-law. With seamless grace, he continues to blog his new surroundings as well as his personal adventures along the path of life. A recent post showed his discovery of the beauty salon his mother-in-law patronizes, with him watching like a kid in a foreign land.

These hair dryers, seen through the glass door at Valerie's, remind me of tagging along as a kid with my mother in the 60s, when carefully placed scalp-fulls of rollers and clips roasted under the tiny jets of air. Then, when unrolled and combed and brushed and fluffed and sprayed, a halo of controlled chaos crowned the well groomed customer. In today's fashions, these machines are mostly used to apply heat to chemical applications of color or "permanent waves". My thanks to Ron for reviving the memories, and my best wishes to him and his entire family.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Manzanita Skin

Last spring, I posted a picture of manzanita blossoms with the intention of highlighting the beautiful bark at a later time. Well, it's been harder for me to get up close to any mature and well lit specimens than I thought. They are usually on the other side of slippery roadside trenches, or way up steep slopes, at least when I notice them. Today's photo was taken through a fence along a railroad right-of-way, so I still didn't have perfect access. But this gives you a bit of that smooth, skin-like texture of the living wood, and the bonus bits of lichen on the dead branches mixed in. Some species of Arctostaphylos create big tangled domes with marvelously twisted branches. Others hug the ground.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Thought Our Air Was Clean

We have had a couple of weeks of a high pressure weather system (called an anticyclone in Britain), keeping the skies clear, the winds calm, and the nights cold. The afternoons have been pleasantly warm, but as night falls the households with wood burning stoves and fireplaces begin to kindle the evening's warmth. The dense air above traps the smoke in the valley, as you see in this view of Little Lake Valley from the Reynolds Highway, also called an inversion layer. Rain is forecast for today, and we could dearly use it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cracks and Jack

It's so rare to see custom tile work like this any more, that I grieve to see it drilled into for a pointless railing dividing two shop entrances. The "Colonial" must have been a hotel or apartment building long ago. The crack suggests it could have endured a fairly strong earthquake, and the upper facade, seen in the photo below, shows such evidence as well. When the 1906 quake hit this area, the only fatality happened when a brick hotel collapsed on the proprietor. Residential chimneys fell down all over the area, but the wooden framed houses themselves endured pretty well, being able to flex with the earth. I don't know if the Colonial was around for those events. It seems unlikely with all its brickwork still standing.

Few people realize the epicenter of that shaker was closer to Santa Rosa than San Francisco, and the rupture continued quite strongly up the fault line north. Writer Jack London toured these areas with his wife, Charmian, soon after, and wrote about his observations for Collier's magazine. In her diary (held by the Huntington Library in San Marino), Charmian mentions Jack writing part of "White Fang" while they stayed at a hotel nearer to the railroad depot in Willits.

As Melodee pointed out in the comments, the Colonial name applied to the cinema once operated in part of this building. Thanks Melodee!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fore! Or Forest?

Brooktrails is a vast subdivision in the mountains northwest of Willits, outside of the city limits, which maintains its own special districts for water and greenbelt management. One of the recreational amenities is the nine hole golf course. The course operators have decided that about 40 trees must be removed in order for the greens to be suitably maintained for golf. Redwoods cast long shadows, and the sporting turf has suffered for lack of sunlight. The question for the community is, do they want to cut the trees and continue to golf? Or do they leave the trees, and allow the acreage to become a non-golf parkland area. Brooktrials Township sponsored a community walk to help people to consider the question. This putting green has an unfair midday sunshine advantage, situated by the parking lot.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Information Age

It's a lot to take in all at once, even while traveling along Main Street/Highway 101 at the recommended 25 miles per hour. If you want to turn up Wood Street, you better know that you do, and are allowed, in advance of seeing these.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Irises

It happens every year. This one variety, whatever it is, of Pacific Coast Iris blooms here in the dead of winter. We've had night temperatures consistently at or below freezing, last month saw weeks of snow, ice, drizzle and dark skies, and yet these flowers felt the impulse to form. Normally, Pacific Coast Irises bloom in the spring and early summer. They are native to this region, if not this far inland, and have been collected and hybridized by horticulturists for garden use in a surprising variety of colors. They should call this one January Survivor.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back at the Diner

Great news to report: the Ardella's crew is back in action after their long winter vacation! I couldn't even wait for my food to arrive - I had to take a celebratory picture. It's the beautifully reflective black granite counter top that has me whipping out my camera every time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jazz in the Afternoon

A local jazz trio offered cool sounds on an easy afternoon at coffehouse Mendonesia last weekend (the piano is out of frame). We may be small, but we've got it all. Some time, I'll try to capture the open mic poetry readings done here each month.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Double Arrows

The loading dock for hay and other feed from J.D. Redhouse is also the exit passage for their parking lot, so for just a moment or two, we all get to feel like farmers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fantasy Land

Coincidentally combining elements from the previous two posts, the westernmost end of the J.D. Redhouse building mural casts the Mendocino coast into a planet of fantasy, with a moon in a pink sky as the viewer looks north. The camouflage tarp reveals the contrast between fantasy forest green paint and more realistic hues. I'm not a fan of the color "teal", but I actually like this mural. I suspect the black trailer is there if needed for deliveries of hay bales to area farms.

FantasyMuralCamoTr Jigsaw PuzzleFantasyMuralCamoTr Jigsaw Puzzle

Monday, January 12, 2009

Old Moon on the Rise

According to the calendar, the Old Moon still had another day to wax full when I took this, but I was glad to catch it in semi-daylight. Willits is nestled against the western side of Little Lake Valley, and the shadows of evening darkness creep across the landscape west to east - first the town, then the valley, then the hills, and finally the high mountains I described on Friday. Here to the east of us, they glow pink in the filtered spectrum of sunset coming from overhead; the endless sunset that never dies, but continues to sweep across the globe to each rock and tree and wave, in its turn, while we scamper about below, remembering to check our watches, or start the fires, growing hungry for supper, perhaps traveling home, or fearing for our lives.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Feminine Mystique

Remarkably, the artist's signature on this mural indicates it was painted in 1977. The storefront facing the street is now a watch repair shop, so I had always assumed this beauty salon reference was just left up for the sake of the artwork. It wasn't until I walked around this side of Main Street today that I discovered Valerie's on the opposite side of the building, still an active business. I need to get out more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

School Bus Loading Shelter

Blosser Lane Elementary School was pretty vacant last weekend, but it gave me a chance to show some of the farthest mountains to the east of us, viewed from the rising western edge of Little Lake Valley. The first ridges visible (see the gap on the right) are in the 2000-3000 foot elevation range, and are the only thing you see when in the center of the valley. (The valley itself is about 1300 feet above sea level.) Beyond those, the higher mountains of the inland Coast Ranges rise nearly 7000 feet at a few points. With any luck, the next two months will bring us cold, wet storms to deposit a thick "snow pack" up there. Our water supply, and the health of the streams and rivers, depends on that bank of frozen water to fill our reservoirs for the summer through fall dry season. The snow that has fallen so far has already melted away. I'll try not to worry.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Groovy Moss

These pavement grooves signal a change in the sidewalk's surface angle, as it slopes down to meet the street for crossing by wheelchairs or the visually impaired. They seem to provide secure footing for some moss as well, but the bits of lichen sprinkled about blew down from the trees in the rain and wind, and won't be sticking around.

MossySidewalkGroov Jigsaw PuzzleMossySidewalkGroov Jigsaw Puzzle

Thursday, January 8, 2009

American Dream

I took this picture about a month ago, and it wants to be posted, rather than passed by like hundreds of others that don't make it to the light of day. I feel I sometimes neglect the residential face of Willits.

Home ownership has long been held up as the ideal in a stable American-style democracy. Over the last twenty years, the prices put on property grew so disproportionately compared to the only slight growth in ordinary salaries, that only people who already had equity in a house before that period could safely leverage that value to move to something bigger and better. Anyone trying to step into the market stream after that, had to find "no money down" options to finance ridiculously inflated price tags on something even as simple as this little blue cottage. People now lament the "wealth lost" by folks in the first category, but forget the impossible position of folks in the second category, who now face forclosure.

Perhaps as the next ten years unfold, the phrase "affordable housing" won't strike fear in the hearts of "nice" neighborhoods, and housing development models can be imagined and built to include everyone. And now turn to #225 in your hymnal...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wet Winter Park

In an icy cold morning fog, a figure of mystery is barely discernible through the trees of Recreation Grove.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


A splendid load of rosehips awaits the landowner's harvest near a roadside in the valley. Like most plants in the rose family (apples, blackberries), the fruit of roses is a useful addition to the human diet. While difficult to eat raw (apparently hard and sour), rosehips are loaded with vitamin C, iron, and anti-oxidants. When dried they make a fine addition to herbal tea mixtures, or steeped on their own. They can also be cooked into jams and pies - especially good mixed with other fruit. Of course, they are also pretty just left on the vine.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Abundant Lichen

A wooly fleece of lichen clothed a winter-bare stand of hardwood trees just east of town. I thought the horses set off the color of the lichen to great advantage, don't you?

And don't miss this great page of ten things you should know about lichen.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bright Eyes

Willits is blessed with an abundance of railroads. While much of the derelict equipment was removed a few months ago, some railcars have been consolidated together on a couple of tracks of the NWP, and fenced in to help prevent additional vandalism. The headlamps of this locomotive reminded me of the eyes of a spider.

CCTLocoHeadlamps Jigsaw PuzzleCCTLocoHeadlamps Jigsaw Puzzle

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Winter Gold

The last of the yellow willow leaves are finally letting go along the many stream sides in Little Lake Valley.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Beginning Again

I was able to grab a fair number of images from an abandoned auto service center building complex in 2008, and a few weeks ago added the image above to the list. A new owner for the property has apparently been found, so the old buildings have been disappearing a little at a time. This laborer is in a trench up to his knees, but I'm not sure what he is doing. The back wall of the post office is behind him, and the floor of a now vanished retail showroom spreads before him, shortly to be jack-hammered away.

On sunny Tuesday, I found further progress on the site. New concrete has been poured into the same building footprint as the previous structure, and this strange rotating machine was polishing? texturizing? the fairly fresh surface.

It's good to see some investment still going on, even in these hard economic times. But I miss the glass brick entrance of the former building. All the boxwood and datura is gone as well.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January Theme Day: Best Photo of the Year 2008

This isn't what I consider my best photograph just on visual quality, but it was my best post for the year of 2008, for the story of my shared quest to photograph that horse through the Ardella's Diner windows. It speaks to the experience of doing Willits Daily Photo like no other, and this particular moment was so joyful. Read the story behind it on the original post, here. I hope anybody passing through Willits will be inspired to have a meal at Ardella's.

For some of my other favorites from the past year, see my Overflow blog. It's been an interesting year, and this blog has connected me to Willits in ways I never imagined.

The first day of the month is always a theme day among more than a hundred City Daily Photo Bloggers who choose to participate, all around the world. Click here to view thumbnails for all the participants answer to the theme "Best Photo of the Year".