Category Archives: agriculture

Doncha Wish You Lived In California NOW?

The cloudless sky, leaves turning bright yellow and red, clean cool air that didn’t blow your hair off; it couldn’t have been a better day for photography.  I wanted a better picture for my book of FJ White Learning Center.

FJ White Learning Center

Ernie Garcia worked with me at Francis J. White Learning Center.  He volunteered to come with me on my photography spree and pose for a fake picture for my book.


Ernie unlocking gateBWWe took some great pictures there then he said, “Now where are we going to go?”

History is all about geography, and geography changes over time.  So when someone says to me, “I worked at Redbanks,” I think Dead Rat Saloon, and trees on the hill.  I love it when people want to drive around town with me and point out where things used to be.

entering Redbanks



Ernie suggested, “Let’s drive to Redbanks.  I haven’t been there in quite a while.”  So we drove to the real Redbanks where Ernie worked in the 1940s before Uncle Sam pointed his finger Ernie’s direction.

Old hotel1

Looking left from the bridge I saw the old hotel that Chuck Hackett told me resembled a Union Station. Over the years Redbanks (and probably others) had used Cottonwood Creek as an equipment gravesite, which lay exposed in the dry creek bed.

old hotel2

Ernie came to Redbanks in 1933, and attended Paloma School.  When we drove in, the manager pulled his pickup next to my Prius.  I started to introduce myself  and explain why we were trespassing, but he interrupted me.  “I know this guy!”  You would have thought Ernie was a rock star!  We were in.

Old hotel3

He and Ernie chatted while I snuck off and took pictures of the old hotel.

Old hotel4

Janet Livingston gave me a little history about Redbanks.  Mary Anne Terstegge Tulare County Historical Librarian wrote in the March 1991 Valley Voice p. 27,

On the north bank of Cottonwood Creek was the ranch headquarters. Immediately west of the road is the two-story manager’s house. Bill Murray lived there from 1921 until 1929. Then the Bill Mayfields moved into it. Wilbur Mayfield was a pipe man from Goshen who served as superintendent until 1934.

old hotel7

Beyond the manager’s house was … the main building which is of Spanish style resembling a Southern Pacific depot. Constructed in 1914. This building had a large restaurant for the workers at its west end.

old hotel6

Immediately behind the dining area was a large kitchen and food storage area with ice lockers in the center directly below the upstairs. The kitchen was presided over by Wylie, a one-eyed Chinese man who was an excellent cook. In the center of the north side of this headquarters building, a hall and stairway gave access to the upper floor.

Old hotel5 In the late 1920s, the east end was remodeled to create offices. West of the headquarters building and near the creek was the shower/lavatory building.

old hotel8

At first there were only rooms for workers up there. Then in 1932, the upstairs has converted into a five-room apartment known as “the penthouse”. The east half of this building contained rooms for bachelor workers. Hence it was referred to as “the hotel.”

Ernie guided me back into the Redbanks complex past the ranch garage for motorized equipment.  Earlier it had been a blacksmith shop area.  Ernie called this next house the “Hindu Building.”  Originally it had been the Hindu irrigator’s bunk house.

Hindu bunkhouse1

Ernie’s brother had his wedding reception in this, once beautiful building.  Looking across the fence to the north we saw Colvin’s Mountain.

Colvin's MountainThe first settler in that area west of Woodlake was Elijah T. Colvin, a stockman who in the early 1860s bought three sections of land on the southern slopes of the hill, which bears his name. At that time Cottonwood Creek still ran due south into the St. Johns River. By 1892, Elijah Colvin was dead and some of his property was sold.

Ernie told me that when he worked here, they could see the vegetable gardens planted by the Japanese that once lived on Colvin Mountain.  The government evacuated them sent them to live in internment camps during World War II.  They did not return, and now orange groves cover the lower part of the mountain.

Cottonwood creek

As we left, I pulled the car over, left it running, but did remember to put it in park this time, and ran back across the bridge to take one last shot of Cottonwood Creek and the Sierra Nevadas.  Ernie taught me more in an hour than I could have mastered reading 10 hours of articles about Redbanks.  Thanks Ernie!




Sunday Post: Nature

Is nature natural or just outside?  Are objects of nature found inside a building still considered nature?  Jake always makes me think!


The nature we have here in the California Central Valley is anything but natural in most places.

TC Winter covered peach tree r

The 600-mile long California Central Valley has been plowed and remodeled to grow every crop imaginable.

SFW TC Spring 2013078rOne of many valley crops, peach trees, deposed native oaks found in the Kaweah River Delta over one hundred fifty years ago.  For more agricultural facts click here.

TC Winter oak tree r

Between the Kaweah River Delta and Sierra Nevada mountains, alfalfa replaced nature’s native grasses.

alfalfa field r

Cows in the foothills still eat grass until it dries, but the variety differs from what grew here in the 1850s when Thomas Henry Davis brought some of the first cows from Mexico to Antelope Valley, near current-day Woodlake, CA.

SFW TC Spring cows 4

Evergreen orange trees first populated the Woodlake area in 1878, watered in part by the Watchumna Ditch, built in 1872.  Canals and ditches still carry life-giving water to arid fields.

Friant Kern Canal r

Last year the trees received enough water to stay healthy. This year farmers uprooted thousands of dead orange trees.

oranges Apr2013r

Since this area thrives because of irrigation, when water reserves and underground water tables drop, farmers rely on water transported from Northern California.  The Kaweah River constrained by the Terminus Dam receded this year to expose a bridge built in 1938, foundations of homes, and wells.

TC Drive to Kaweah Lake049r

Man-made changes have obviously mixed with nature to create California’s Central Valley “nature.”  President Obama arrives tomorrow in Fresno to assess the drought’s damage to the Central Valley’s agricultural nature.

For more facts about Tulare County click here.

For more interpretations on Nature, click here.


The Accidental Vacation: Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight  The Gem of the Klamath River 

Salmon fishing is "slammig."
Salmon fishing is “slamming.”

“A new transmission is not so bad,” Vince said, still nervous about Marsha’s reaction to the news.  “It could have been so much worse.  Just think if we’d broken down going up that grade to Eureka that we drove yesterday.”

“Yeah, there’s not much between here and McKinleyville, Arcata and then Eureka.   And running into elk at night in the rain, with no transmission.  Yikes!”  Marsha knew how lucky they had been, and she couldn’t even be upset at the news.  It was an old truck anyway, and it had never given them any trouble.  She felt like anyone else, a truck needed to go to the doctor and get things fixed once in a while.

“The good news is that we get internet today!”  Vince had spotted the sign at the Riverside RV Park next to them.  They had stopped in after their trip to Eureka, and asked about using the internet for Marsha’s online meeting the next day.  Even though they were on vacation, work could go almost anywhere, and Marsha needed to find a source.  The park next to them was almost empty.  Salmon season was almost over, and folks were heading home.  Marsha hoped they would be willing to help them move over.

As they talked to the park managers, Marsha had suggested that they would love to move to their park, but they had no truck to tow the trailer.  The manager and her husband thought that they could tow the Terry trailer an eighth of a mile down the road to their park with their Ford pickup.

SFW Klamath trips Sept 18 to 19204

“And we have TV service as well,” the manager told the couple proudly.  “Did you notice that we also have free laundry service?”

The move was completed by 9:00 a.m., and Marsha opened her computer, and tested the internet.  “Wow, this is faster than at home, “ she told Vince.

“Do you want to run into Crescent City to check on the truck?” he asked, knowing full well he had the rest of the morning to himself.

In reality, he had the rest of the day to himself.  Marsha looked up at about 1:00 and took the dog for a walk and enjoyed the wonderful sunshine, and another walk a couple of hours later, each time snapping back to the computer like she was connected to it by a rubber band.  At five thirty she finally noticed Vince lying on the couch quietly watching TV, and forced herself to pay attention to him.

“Let’s go for a walk.  It’s so beautiful outside,” she smiled at her patient husband.

As they walked around the park, they stopped to talk to a forest ranger.  His job was to check each fisherman and women as they brought in their catches.  The rangers had a route they checked, and collected random data about the salmon in  Klamath River.  They examined the fish for diseases, weighed them, and recorded many other important data.  The ranger told them about the 2002 salmon disaster.

Klamath Canon316
The Klamath River on the right enters the Pacific Ocean on the left. People fish on the bank in between. 

The Klamath River is a dam-controlled river that transports some of its water to California’s great Central Valley for agricultural purposes.  In 2002, they had been letting the cold spring waters flow to the ocean, just a half mile from where Vince and Marsha stood.  The cold river water beckoned the salmon to enter into the river to lay their eggs.  After they started their run upstream to spawn, the water was shut off in preparation to send it to the Valley.  The shallower waters in the river heated up, and the salmon were trapped.  They were caught too far from the ocean to get back, and became diseased in the glutted warmer waters, and died.   By the end of the catastrophe over 33,000 dead salmon floated along the banks of the Klamath for miles.  The congressperson for that area took many of them to Washington D.C. and laid them out on the steps of the Capitol to illustrate the disaster.

Marsha and Vince knew the consequences of water cutbacks all too well.  Restrictions of water imported by the Central Valley meant gluts of dead trees, uprooted on their sides along every roadway.  The couple had not smelled the thousands of salmon that lost their lives for lack of water, but they watched trees wither when the water didn’t come.  The debates over water resources would never end.  Water, a priceless commodity, is too scarce, and absolutely vital to both communities.

The RV Park handed out the Klamath Chamber of Commerce Newsletter with all the other check-in information.  On the very first page of the September, 2013 Volume 13, Issue 9 was a full-page article titled, “Klamath River Conditions & Salmon.”   A quick scan pulled up the word, “Fresno,” and Marsha, read on.  “On Wednesday, August 21st, a federal court judge relied heavily on Yurok tribal science in a weighty decision to increase Klamath River flows, and not send the water to California’s Central Valley.”  The conditions this year are “nearly 1.7 times the number of fish that returned in 2002.  …  The Klamath River is one of three rivers that produce the majority of sport and commercial Chinook salmon harvest on the West Coast.”

Klamath Canon319

What a dilemma.  Marsha felt overwhelmed by the struggle for life between salmon and trees.  Living in Oregon among fishermen in her family further divided her loyalties.  The decisions to send the life-giving water one place or another affect millions of people’s lives, not to mention the salmon and the trees.  The Central Valley produces a large proportion of food that is exported to the rest of the nation as well as other parts of the world.

Marsha looks upstream from the mouth of the Klamath.
Marsha looks upstream from the mouth of the Klamath.

For the moment, the couple enjoyed the “slamming” salmon catches on the Klamath River.  The couple they had met at the former park gave them some freshly home canned salmon.

If you were making the decisions about where to send the water, where would you send it?

Other articles about the Klamath River


Weekend Relaxing #2 Gardening

I have decided that picking most fruits and vegetables is best done by children who love to play games.  I think that fruits and vegetables get their jollies by playing hide-and-go-seek with humans.  You know they are ripe.  There are a few tantalizing veggies peeking out behind their leafy clothing.

Think there are any more tomatoes in there?
Think there are any more tomatoes in there?

Green beens are the worst.  I went out yesterday.  I picked all the beans I saw that were ripe.  I got quite a few, but to look at the plants, there were only little bitty beans.  You think – mistakenly – they’re not ready yet.

How many beans can you see?  Would you pick them or throw them back?
How many beans can you see? Would you pick them or throw them back?

What I found out is that you can’t let them be modest.  You’ve just got to pull their leafy clothes away from them.  Mothers that are used to changing diapers are accustomed to that.  They just whip off those clothes, get the job done, and bingo, the kid’s back in business, and Mom is on her way to the next chore.  No pretend modesty,

Weekend Relaxing #1 Gardening

But back to beans.  I guess I was too prissy the first, second and third picking.  After just picking beans two days ago, look what I found – the ones I missed – LAST WEEK!

They played hide and go seek long enough to be bean seeds.
They played hide and go seek long enough to be bean seeds.

And look who else wanted my beans!

"I'll find those sneaky beans!"
“I’ll find those sneaky beans!”

I kept him from getting some of them as you can see below.

See you tomorrow.  I got a great question from Benzeknees.  Thanks so much for asking!

Word a Week Challenge: Worker

I found this A Word A Week Challenge  browsing your websites.  Workers, are they professional, blue-collar, amateurs learning a hobby?  Are workers those who work outside or inside?  Is work physical or mental, or both?    Genesis tells us that six days God worked, and on the seventh day God rested.  I’m sure his work involved a bit of thought and creativity as well as some pretty heavy lifting – even if He was just filling craters with water and microscopic creatures, and scattering a few stars and galaxies across the universe.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photograph to share with you of God, or my work here would be finished.  Do workers have to get paid, or are many workers unpaid?  Here are a few shots I have that show people working.  Most of these workers are paid.


TAH 2012
Tulare County history teachers earning a small stipend to learn more about their subject and how to teach it.


Central Valley Kiwanis Clubs join together to work the World Ag Expo.
Central Valley Kiwanis Clubs join together to work the World Ag Expo for provide scholarships and other help to Valley students.

My most recent photograph, of course was taken when I took a Wildflower class and worked diligently to learn how to us a tripod, focus my camera manually, and sneak in a change in f stop or two.  I got very tired that day.  Here are two workers taking a break as the teacher energetically works on.

Photography teacher, retail camera shop
Photography teacher, retail camera shop

Most of the time Pam works in Mike’s Quality Camera store in Visalia.  Her dad is retired, but started the successful retail business.  At least two of his children work there along with several other dedicated photographers.  They must work very hard because the store seems to be thriving.  Their hard work involves pleasing people like me, and making sure that we are happy with our products so that we come back and buy from them and not go to a Best Buy or Costco for our expensive purchases.

ATT telephone lineman
ATT telephone lineman  The woodpeckers have been hard at work making holes in the lines.

This telephone lineman just happened to be climbing up a pole when I walked by without my camera.  He was busy enough to wait until I ran home and got my camera to let me take his picture.  One neighbor had complained of static on the phone line.  I  told him that we had static, too.  He must have done something right because I haven’t heard it since he left.

Waitress at Orange Works
Waitress at Orange Works

The most delicious sandwiches in Tulare County come from Orange Works, a little restaurant east of Visalia and north of Porterville on Hwy 65.  This cheerful worker may be the daughter of one of the owners.

This operation was putting a new heating unit on our roof.  Dangerous business, if you ask me.

It took three men to remove the old unit and install the new one, two air conditioner installers, and a crane operator.  How do you think these three men are stratified, or are they, and why?

It takes two nursery workers to take this baby out of the bed!
It takes two nursery workers to take this baby out of the bed!

These guys work at a nearby nursery.  This tree was much too big for us to carry home in the pick-up!  I used to work in the nursery of our church.  I think I worked harder!

He carries his equipment on his back.
He carries his equipment on his back.

You’ve seen this orange picker before.  He can’t see the orange grove for the trees.

a woman worker packing table grapes
a woman worker packing table grapes

Grape workers pack efficiently in the shade of a make-shift structure on a beautiful fall day.   Who has the better work? The picker, the packer or the driver?  That is the big question really.  Workers stratify themselves. My guess is that this driver thinks he has the better job.  For one thing, there are more pickers than drivers, so the driver might feel elite.  The driver sits rather than stands.  oooooh  He looks over them and is idle while they work, but they don’t watch him while he’s doing all his work. They may see him work sometimes, but some of his work is invisible to them.  He gets to use expensive equipment.  My guess is that he is better paid, and by that criterion has the “better” work, but is it?  And to go even deeper, is he the better worker?  hmmm

Who has the better work?  The picker, the packer or the driver?
Somebody has to drive the trucks that get goods and materials places.


Finally, Rick Rossiter makes all his own toys and props to tell each story.  He memorizes the stories, and goes from school to school telling the stories he memorized that year. Each year his theme changes.  You might say he is the court jester of modern days.  Is he working?

Rick Rossiter, telling stories to second graders
Rick Rossiter, telling stories to second graders

Social studies teachers, wouldn’t this be a great assignment for your students to do?

Who is the better worker?  Do you think it is the one who works harder with his hands or his brain, or the one who uses both?  Or does salary determine who the better worker is?  Justify your answer with logical reasoning using examples.

Are people stratified where you work?  What makes the strata? (strata plural of stratum – I wanted to add an s) In this grouping of mine, who do you think has the “better” work, and why?  Ok besides God!  Come on – you knew I wasn’t going to fall for that easy answer, didn’t you?


A Valleycation Date in Kingsburg and Fresno California

Vince and I scheduled today as a valleycation date.  I love that word.  My friend, Mary, coined it.  It is like a stacation – a vacation where you stay at home and enjoy what you have at home.  A valleycation is when you visit locations in the San Joaquin Valley (where we live) that you have always wanted to see, but never had the time-or took the time to visit like a tourist would. We left home about 11:00 and Vince was already starving.  “Where can we eat between here and Fresno?” he said the second I got into the passenger seat.

“There are two good places I think you’d like.  Spike and Rail in Selma and Kady’s Country Kitchen in Kingsburg.”

The Kingsburg horse is ubiquitous.
The Kingsburg horse is ubiquitous.

“Oh well, I guess we could go to Subway,” he responded unenthusiastically.

Normally that would be the end of the conversation, and we would go to Subway, but I determined this would be different.  “No, this is a special date, and Subway is unacceptable to me because it’s not special.  I’ll Yelp some places.”  I found three places, and he rejected them after trying to find one that didn’t seem to be where it should have been according to my iPhone map.

“Let’s just drive into downtown.”

We both love pizza.
We both love pizza.  Vince is Italian, for heaven’s sake!

“What about the Pizza place that I mentioned, Corsaro’s?  It’s downtown.”

“Here’s a bakery.  How about that?”  It was next to the 4.5 star pizza place.  A woman happened to come out of the pizza place about that time, so I asked, “How is the food here?”

She rolled her eyes like she was in heaven and just couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into lunch, and said, “Really good.  Here let me show you my bread sticks.”  She opened her box, and they looked and smelled delicious.

Nothing fancy, but you can't knock 4.5 stars on Yelp!
Nothing fancy, but you can’t knock 4.5 stars on Yelp!

So we ate at the pizza place, and it was ok.  I would give it 3 stars.  The people were marvelous.  The woman who took our order even knew me because her niece participated in History Day in Tulare County.

As usual, I forgot to take a picture before we ate some!
As usual, I forgot to take a picture before we ate some!  The only thing I didn’t like was that they used the chicken’s dark meat, and I prefer white, but most people aren’t that picky.  The dough was awesome!

Down the street was Baby Cakes, one of Mary’s favorite places.

I really wanted to go to Baby Cakes!
I really wanted to go to Baby Cakes!  “Superior Ice Cream,” he sneered.  (Superior is the best, but it makes him ill.)   I thought he might refuse to go inside, but the cupcakes lured him.

We got a peanut butter chocolate and a salted caramel Baby Cake, and a cookie, which was out of this world delicious.

"Yum!"  That's my tell word.  If I don't say that sort of subconsciously Vince suspects that I don't like something.
“Yum!” That’s my tell word. If I don’t say that sort of subconsciously Vince suspects that I don’t like something.

As we got into our car and began eating our sweets, the high school dismissed for lunch, and students swarmed the restaurants like ants.  We smiled and ate our Baby Cakes in the car, and left with just enough time to make it to the 1:00 tour of the Underground Gardens.

Best cookie I have ever had bar none, and I make great cookies!
Best cookie I have ever had bar none, and I make great cookies!

I have lived in the area 28 years, and haven’t been to the gardens, though I have driven past them hundreds of times and never known it.


Around 1900, Baldassare Forestiere, a second son asked his wealthy father what he was going to inherit.  When his dad told him nothing since he was the second son, Baldassare  left for America to seek his own fortune.  A hard-working lad, he found work in Boston digging tunnels for the subway.  A few winters cured him of wanting to live there, and he hopped on a train and headed west for California.  He made it to Orange County, and discovered that he loved growing oranges, but land was not cheap even back in 1900.  So he asked around and eventually decided to settle in Fresno.  He bought 80 acres, and set about readying his fields for orange groves.


Fresno and Tulare Counties have some interesting soil types.  They have wonderful delta soil from all the rivers that flow from the Sierra Nevadas down the Fresno, Kern, Kings, Kaweah, and numerous other rivers and creeks into what used to be Tulare Lake, the largest freshwater lake other than the Great Lakes in the United States.  They also have a soil type known as hard-pan.  This soil is more like cement.  As it turned out, this ambitious lad, Baldassare Forestiere, had purchased 80 acres of mostly hardpan.  Not to be discouraged, Forestiere picked up his old stand-by trade, digging and began to dig.  During the day he dug for hire, and helped create some of the amazing canals we have in this arid agricultural region.  By nights and weekends he dug tunnels in his property.  He started out with a large underground room, and discovered that the 115 degrees on top of the ground was only about 75 or 80 in his tunnel room.  So he moved into his tunnel.  He built skylights, and planted his orchard underground.  It flourished, as did he.  By age 40 he retired, and tunneled full-time on his property.  He ended up with 5 acres of tunnels.  We only saw 2.5 of them.

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Although he died without having married or children, his brother and his bother’s children bought the property, and kept it in the family, where it remains today.  The tunnel house is truly a work of art.  This is a tour definitely worth the investment.  Photographs definitely don’t portray the  amount of tunnels that we saw, and we didn’t see them all!

We drove home, and marveled at where we live, wondering how we overlooked such a treasure for so long.

What are the places in your neck of the woods that you know are there for sightseers, but YOU haven’t taken the time to go see them?

Planting Strawberries

Rows and rows of strawberries.
Rows and rows of strawberries.

Last year a friend of mine gave me  81 strawberry plants. Fortunately, I have a big yard. I planted all 81 plants. Most of them lived. Some of them had babies. This year I had to transplant babies.

How many babies can you count?
How many babies can you count?

It’s hard to know how many holes to dig until you start digging up the babies. What looks like one big plant may end up being five little plants. Five little plants may end up being 10 little plants. Yesterday, most of the day I spent digging up weeds, and preparing the soil. By the time I finished I had to take off my coat, and I had a big pile of weeds. But I didn’t have many strawberry plants.

Weeds and grass grew where the strawberries didn't make it!
Weeds and grass grew where the strawberries didn’t make it!

Today, I dug up babies. I planted about 30 babies. Many of them only had two or three leaves. But I gave them a spot, and hopefully they will grow.

You know why strawberries are always so good?  They live in holy places.
You know why strawberries are always so good? They live in holy places.  It looks like the devil is out to get them, though!  Watch out!  Strawbabies!

What is your favorite plant to grow?

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By the way I am using Dragon Naturally to do this post. I still have a lot to learn. Especially about editing, but it does type faster than I do. It just can’t think for me!

I decided on my anniversary of one year with WordPress that I would start another blog on blogger. My other address is I want to write an article to compare the different kinds of website builders. On blogspot I’m just going to have pictures with a little bit of explanation. Nothing complicated! :-)

Happy Cows of California? That’s a Bunch of Bulls

I took my friend Jean home after our walk, and fortunately had my camera along.  Fields of grazing land in the foothills of Tulare County is several thousand acres.  The bulls live the life of Riley.  Cows, that’s another story.  Dairies pack those poor milky females into a few hundred acres with no grass – mud/dirt only.  Cows have to watch what they eat so the milk tastes right – so no tempting grass  Does that sound familiar women?

Bulls, though, are treated like royalty.  But, in spite of the best of the best, the grass is always greener on the other side.

I'd be he's going to be a womanizer, too!  No bull!
I’d bet he’s going to be a womanizer, too! A whole field of prime real estate to choose from, and he chooses to go UNDER the fence!  No bull!

This little guy wasn’t shy.  I thought I would try to sneak up on him, and he posed for me without being asked.  Then he came over to ME.  I sat on the ground, and pretty soon I had a harem of bulls.  V told me that a good photographer gets different perspectives on things by going to different levels.  Good photographers don’t always take their pictures from 5’5″ in the air.  So I laid down.  I think the bulls wanted to make a meal of me, and I know they only eat vegetables.

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I wasn’t worried.  For some reason skinny barbed wired scares off the biggest bulls.  So these little guys had to be safe.  Right?  Actually I was more worried about me being safe than I was about them.  And that’s no bull!

Splotch’s owner came out when she saw me lying on the ground on the side of the road.  I had to sit up every time a car drove by so they wouldn’t think there was a dead woman on the side of the road.  Sure enough someone pulled off the road and asked the bull’s owner  Peggy Sue, about my car pulled off the other side of the road and parked.  I heard her talking about me.

They’re so cute when they are young.  Unfortunately they grow up!  The lucky ones look like this big fella.  The unlucky ones – we eat!

What are you lookin' at?  Good thing you ain't a wearin' red, lady!
What are you lookin’ at? Good thing you ain’t a wearin’ red, lady!

I have to admit that this guy scared me some.  I didn’t get down to get a better angle on him.

What would you have done if you’d seen such a bunch of cute bulls hanging around on your way home?

Spring Inspires Gardening Chores in California

My husband, like Manny, hibernates in the winter.  As soon as the days get longer and the temperature gets to about 65, V comes back to life and goes into hyperactive work mode. He also has talent to go with the spurts of energy.

Spring is almost here.
Spring is almost here.

This weekend the sun called to him, and said, “It’s time to think about planting.”  V loves to design landscaped areas, but has never been interested in gardening – UNTIL I retired.  Now he wants to garden.  We live in Central California which is the agricultural capital of the world.  Crops of every type grow here.  You dig a hole, stick something in it, flood it, and POOF it grows.

TC Gardening Chores 6
Lavender will look nice around these rocks.

V is creative and artistic.  Gardening is not merely planting random plants into the soil.  This weekend he came home with lumber, pvc pipe, wire mesh, soil amendments, and germ-free soil.

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While he was doing all that I started on another couple of projects.  I pruned roses.  Behind the roses is a once beautiful fence that V designed and built when we moved here 12 years ago.  It has been painted several times, but it never STAYS painted.  (duh) Old fences aren’t interesting to creative people.  Except that they look cottage-ish, and have creative value in the landscape.  To me they look old and run-down.  So I spent the rest of the afternoon scraping the peeling paint off the fence.

TC Gardening Chores 4
Where is Huck Finn when you need him?

Are you the creative one or the grunt in your family?  What are some of your projects?

More Running P

Mike Pace was a history teacher.  Sally was a high school counselor that raised more scholarships than almost anyone in the nation – per student.  She was one of three in the NATION!!!!  That’s how we all met.  They retired a few years ago, and they both keep more than busy doing projects.  They have created Running P Ranch as a place for others to enjoy with them.  They host weddings, Kiwanis parties, and many other events.  Yesterday I posted just a few signs from the bar before I ran out of time.  Today, you’re in for a treat.

Meet Margaret Sanger, named for a historic person.  Do you know why Margaret  is famous?
Meet Margaret Sanger, named for a historic person. Do you know why Margaret is famous?

As it turns out Mike and Sally built a “bath” house for people who want to get married at Running P Ranch.  I wished I could get married when I saw all the cute, fun things at this ranch.  Here is the bath house where the bride gets ready.  There is even a high, high clothes bar to hang the full length dresses.

Mike and Sally collect things.  It’s dark in here, but you can get an idea of what’s in here.  All I needed was a horse or two and a beautiful white gown to create my perfect romantic ride.

Yard art intrigues me, especially when it is old farm equipment.  Some of these item you are going to have to guess at. Can you find the tractor tire?  How about the hand-held walking hoe that belonged to Mike Grandfather?  Lanterns are easy to locate.   Now if you are at a loss about these items, you can like Sally and Mike’s Fan Page at the end of this post.

I had to laugh at the two folks that looked just like Mike.  One of them came from New Mexico.  Can you guess which one?

One last item before I close.  You can’t have a ranch without having the proper attire.  Sally asked me not to photograph her, but I couldn’t resist this professional gear.  Notice the knees.

So there you have it, a more proper introduction to the Running P Ranch.  Hope you had as much fun as we did.  Of course you couldn’t have because you didn’t have Mike and Sally to escort you through, but just imbibe a little of my fun, and be sure to find a few things that make you laugh.

They started a Facebook Fan Page just 3 days ago.  Yesterday they had 111 fans already! I have 50, and mine started at least a month ago (I’m not competing!!!!)  Here is their fan page if you want to give them a like.

Walnuts Change Clothes for the Winter

SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts075

I hated walnuts until I moved to Tulare County.  We couldn’t have been relocated into a better place than when my first husband and I moved here August 1, 1985, a month prior to the beginning of walnut harvesting season.  After about 3 months of blistering hot weather, and by that I mean temperatures of 105+ F or 40.55 C, walnuts are ready to come down from their lofty perches.  We rented an old adobe house centered between two walnut groves.

Nobody told me how they got walnuts out of the trees.  Walnut trees put up with a lot from us humans.  Have you ever been in so much trouble that your authority person took you by the shoulders and shook you?  That’s what large equipment, called a shaker, does to each and every walnut tree.  Do you know what is in the trees besides walnuts?

Of course you do.  Dust.  There is so much dust in the air that even the leaves can’t breathe.  Maybe the trees are grateful for the shake-up.  Leaves are much more tenacious than walnuts, however, and they stay put through the process.  Walnut husks let loose of most of their walnuts and drop them nicely into a large dump truck following the shaker machine.  I almost got pictures of that happening this fall, but guess what?  Forgot my camera – AGAIN!  The amount of dust that filled the air would have horrified those of you who think the sky is blue.  It isn’t in September.  It’s brownish-blue.  Even the clouds hide when the dust is flying.

In the days when we lived in the walnut groves, I had all the walnuts I ever wanted.  After the shakers came, the gleaners gleaned.  They took some of the walnuts that were left on the ground where the shaker didn’t aim very well, and missed the dump truck.  After the gleaners finished, the walnut trees dropped the rest of their walnuts sporadically throughout the winter.

One warm day in November I headed into the grove for my daily walk.  Lying on the ground were piles and piles of left-over walnuts that everybody had missed.  In all the months we had lived there (4), I didn’t realize that walnuts had connoisseurs that weren’t human, but they did.  Even after a month of picking them I had not met a non-human walnut-lover, but on this particular day I met them.  At first I picked up just a walnut or two, and carried them in my hands.  Then I got greedy.  I didn’t have a container with me, so I used my blouse, and just made a little sling out of the front of it, and started loading it with walnuts.  Here and there I bent down, and added more and more walnuts to my nifty cotton t-shirt/bag.  (Yes, I was literally a 30 year-old bag lady.)

With my blouse filled with walnuts, I started itching a little.  I couldn’t scratch because I was carrying all those walnuts, and that took both hands.  Walking faster and faster I still was quite a ways from our house, when I realized what was happening.  I disturbed these  inhumane feasters by stealing their walnuts and jostling them. They came out of the walnut shell to check things out.  Obviously they didn’t like what they saw, and decided to scare me away from their dinner by biting me instead.  Hundreds of them, tiny red ants swarmed out of the shells, into the folds of my blouse, up and over the fabric, right onto my tummy, and up across the top to my neck.  Once I saw the little red devils, I dropped those walnuts, and brushed ants off me as I dashed towards the house.  I couldn’t fill the bathtub fast enough.

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So when I was on my drive, December 4th admiring the beautiful red leaves of the vineyard across the street, the walnut trees, my old friends, called out to me,  “Marsha Lee,  don’t just look at those withered up old grape vines.  We’re pretty, too. Take our pictures.”

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How do you resist a plea like that?  (Even if I did think they sort of looked like they were wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes.)  I didn’t tell them that, of course.

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A left-over. Beware of ants!!

How I get rid of ants, and got walnuts ready to eat:

  • Heat walnuts in the shell in an oven heated to about 200 degrees.  When you start smelling hair, you can turn off the over, but I still leave them in there.  (About an hour or two.  I never had any walnuts seem over done.  If you don’t roast them a bit they are kind of chewy.
  • Shell the walnuts.  This is a great TV watching  activity.
  • Store walnuts in the freezer.  They keep for a long time.

I always had WAY more walnuts than I could have used in a lifetime.  I don’t have any left, but I’ve probably had all the walnuts I can stomach for a lifetime anyway.  I do miss having them in my back yard, though.

Featured Blog

Today’s featured blog is new to me, Algarve Blog.  I was first attracted to the beautiful header, but I read further.  Algarve posts about Portuguese culture, among other things.  This interests me since one of my good friends is Portuguese, and I learned a little about Christmas traditions in Portugal.  You will find a wonderful article about Santas when you read about the Food Bank project.  These Santas are athletic.  I think you will enjoy this beautiful and informative site.

santa-walk001Will the real Santa please stand up?  What are some of your Christmas traditions?

The End of Fall

Tulare County, approximately the size of Connecticut,  has two climates.  One is mountainous – the Sierra Nevada, home of the Sequoia National Park.  The other, home of over 400,000 cows, is a temperate, farming-friendly valley.  Four days ago as I drove towards the largest town, Visalia, I passed two grape vineyards, one with yellow leaves, and one with bright red.  The sun was just breaking through the clouds.  It had rained the day before, and everything sparkled like animated ornaments on a Christmas tree.  No camera!  The cardinal sin of an amateur photographer.

Two days ago, after a minor rain shower, I took my camera and drove that road again, at the same time, hoping to recapture what I had missed.  You can be the judge of that.  Actually I’m just being polite – you can’t because you didn’t see the first sun-sprayed scene.  I’m going to pawn these photos off on you hoping that you will PRESUME that they are as lovely as the first ones would have been if I hadn’t sinned.

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My favorite – a stand-alone beauty.

This is my heart to y’all.  If you see it from a distance, it sort of has that hearty look.  The rest of these may all be too similar for you, but i just couldn’t leave any of them out.  You know how they talk to you, and say, “Please don’t delete me.  Pllllleeeeaaassseeeeee!”

SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts085 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts086 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts087 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts090 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts091 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts093 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts094 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts088 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts096 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts098 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts099I loved their colors, and the shadows, but I was convinced not to take any home to use for the fancy grape leaf dishes.

By the way, I started a public Facebook page yesterday.  I need 30 likes to make it go.  I have 27 likes so far.  Just 3 more.  What could I give as a prize for number 30?  hmmmmm

Ah ha – a gold star and a home cooked meal, without grape leaves, next time you come to CA!

Pike Place Market

Traveling to conferences often allows attendees the opportunity to explore new places.  National Council for the Social Studies moves their conference each year to a different part of the country allowing social studies teachers to learn geography as well as history, civics, economics and all the social studies.  In Seattle I ate in some top Diners and Dives restaurants, rode to the top of the Space Needle, got lost in downtown several times, and best of all, went to the Pike Place Market.

Outside the market you needed an umbrella, which I had left at the top of the Space Needle the night before, but inside, the weather was perfect.  I hadn’t carried my Canon in the rain, so these pictures all came from my iPhone.

Since we had just eaten lunch, the flowers attracted us at first.  Bouquets ranged from $5 – $15.  This one was $10, I think.  We wondered how they sustained themselves, but would have bought at least one bouquet if we weren’t going on the plane hours later.

Honey Crisp apple grown in Washington

Free samples abounded, and these Honey Crisp apples were sweet and crunchy, just the way I like apples.  All the varieties of apples came from Washington, but other fruits and vegetables came from all over.  One item we asked about came from Delano, just south of us in Kern County, California.


Although fruits and vegetables provided the most color, while fish throwing attracted the biggest followers.  I tried to capture the fish in motion, but clicking at exactly the right time challenged me.

We saw lots of fish eyes, oozy clams, live oysters, and tasted smoked salmon jerky at $39 + a pound.

Razor clams oozing out of their shells brushed with sand.
Mary advocates for purchasing sustainable fish, and organic vegetables.

After the fish festival, Mary wanted to experience the shoe museum which meant a pay a quarter, peek through a lit window for about a minute, and have your picture taken outside the painted window display.

Robert Wadlow’s size 37AA shoe
Come one. Come all. Step right up, and put your quarters in. These shoes will astound you.

You can buy anything you might need at this outdoor market, and people come from around the world to do so.  How does this compare to markets in your city or town?  Did you like it?



Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

Spiky green vegetable. Can you guess what it is?

We found this at the Pike’s Street Market in Seattle, which is marvelous, by the way.  I had never seen one, so I wondered if some of you green connoisseurs might recognize this interesting vegetable.

Here’s the recipe, but somehow I missed the name in the excitement of filling the screen with little Christmas Tree vegetables.

So guess away.

P.S. I’m not the only one who likes to photograph these exotic veggies.  Click on the link and you will learn what they are!

Ute Smile also posted an article about this amazing vegetable.

Mowing the Cotton Field

When the mountain stopped me and asked me to take a picture of it, I had no idea that right across the street something was begging me even more to take its picture.

a field of cotton

NO, it took more than a mere field of cotton.  You guessed it – farm equipment doing its job.

Here it comes, that ole cotton mower

It looks small and innocent enough from this vantage point.  Wait till you get closer!

Closer, closer. Be careful! It’s got teeth!

You can see why the air gets so dusty in the Central Valley.  The sky was so immaculate on Saturday because it rained Friday night – our very first rain of the fall.

It still looks small and harmless, just a little dusty!

Don’t be fooled, You wouldn’t want your fingers down there.  About this time I had slid down the slight embankment, and was rushing toward the machine faster than it was coming at me.  In fact, it was ignoring me all together.  HOWEVER…

She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes…
Watch out tchistorygal.  Can you find my tchistorygal signature?  I’m hiding them now!
the cotton boll

As I turned from my engaging activity, I jolted to see, not 10 feet away, a white pick-up with a stern looking man sitting inside staring at me, just waiting.  That was a little eerie, I have to admit, but I greeted him with a friendly apology asking if he minded if I took pictures.  He didn’t, but reminded me not to get my fingers or feet near the cotton mower.  HELLO – like even a 2 year old would back away from a moving grinder like that!  But the slight reprimand was a small price to pay for being allowed to be at that place at that time with my camera in tow, fully charged with an empty disk.  I didn’t ask to take his picture, though.  Maybe he was worried that I was a safety inspector.

all ground up
Have you found me yet? My signature, not a miniature Marsha Lee.

Ok, that is pretty obvious, but don’t you love the little opening of light following the mower?  I did NOT Photoshop that in.  It was an amazing opening in the clouds.  How cool was that?

Just so you will be more knowledgeable at the end of this article than you were at the first, I want to clarify something.  I mistakenly thought that this machine was a cotton picker until I looked online.  I thought the fields looked pretty full of cotton still, but how wrong I was!  This machine in my pictures was merely mowing down the cotton remains.

Did you find all my signatures?  I’m getting pretty cagey, don’t you think?

Under the Grapevine

Grapevine is a place, a town at the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley.  I learned when I first moved here that when you start to cross over Tejon Pass you say, “I’m crossing over the Grapevine.”   It is quite a climb in just a few miles to the 4, 000 foot pass.  In the summer you are warned to turn off your air-conditioning so that the car doesn’t overheat.  That was not a problem on Saturday morning.  My problem in crossing the Grapevine was that it was so beautiful I kept stopping to take pictures.  I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Can you guess what lush crop is growing at the foot of the foothills?

As you are heading south, if you look to the southwest, this is the view you see.

Have you guessed the crop?

What captures your attention?  The mountains in the distance, the green crop, the patch of sunshine beneath the thick blanket of clouds, or the heavy sky?  For me it was the sun turning the mountains copper-colored as I looked west.  I hardly wanted to post this picture, yet as I analyze it I appreciate it.

The sign MIGHT tell you, if you could enlarge the photo enough. Or would it?????

Some of you may know without a sign.  I was still captivated by the sun sneaking through the moisture laden sun-blockers to tan the hills.  I couldn’t resist the texture of the canyons in the mountain sides.  Mostly I was captivated by the falseness of it.  When I was in school in the midwest, I remember seeing pictures of the west, and I didn’t think that the pictures could possibly be real.  How could plateaus be so flat and still be at such a high elevation.  How could the sky look so ethereal?  But here it is years later, still looking like Tinkerbell could pop into the picture sprinkling  fog dust any second.

Have you guessed yet? I had to get closer before I knew for sure.

Have you ever seen anything that looked so healthy?  If I eat a few of these I might turn into the Jolly Green Giant.  Instead I am just turning into the Jolly Giant.

Were you right? Did you guess carrots?

I didn’t pull one up to check, but they look similar to the ones I have grown.  Mine never looked this good, and they always come out short or twisted.

Photoshopped Foothill Peach Tree Orchard

Yesterday you voted on possible covers for a Kiwanis magazine published in the foothill communities of Woodlake, Three Rivers, and Exeter,California.  Thank you so much for your input.  At one time I took a series of fruit tree pictures, and I couldn’t find them.  I did find one picture, but I hated the sky.  So I tried a Leanne.  I tried to made major changes to it.  Please tell me whether you think my work is believable, and if it does the trick, or whether I should stick to the original.

Original peach grove

Sometimes the skies, even in the spring just look dirty.  Sometimes they are stunning.  So I borrowed a stunning sky from the following picture, and I copied it into the picture you see above.

Beautiful spring sky in the foothills

The next thing I had to do was fill in the area between the part of sky that I pasted in and the tops of the trees.  That was hard work.  I started with the cloning tool, and got all kinds of extra tree tops, ugly dirty sky, layers of clouds, and odd colors in odd places.  So I used the brush tool and picked up a light color from the sky and erased the weird layers of clouds.

Peach trees with altered sky.

I am not super pleased with the left side of the sky, but I’m not sure how to make it look any better.  So what do you think?

What’s Happening …In The Foothills

I NEED your opinions!!!

I am so excited.  When I voted on Tuesday I ran into my friends, Sally and Alice who used to work with me when I was teaching.  I love voting.  As we chatted afterwards, and Sally asked me if I wanted to contribute a spring photograph for the cover of the magazine published by Kiwanis Club.  You  all know I said YES!

So now the problem comes of WHICH photograph of the tri-town area do we choose out of hundreds of photographs?  This morning I thought of all you, my unbiased friends that don’t know the area, and some that do.  I’m going to pick some that I like, and let you choose which picture might pop as a magazine cover.  AND if you have other ideas, I might have a picture that goes with it.  SO LEND ME YOUR OPINIONS, PLEASE.  OK, just give the to me.  I won’t give them back.

Foothill Flowers#1

Wild flowers?

Wildflowers #2

Wild flowers with a boy?

Baby Animals #1


Spring Creek#1

A stream which is dry all year except spring?

Cherry blossoms #1


Foothill Agriculture in the Spring

Agriculture in the foothills.  The foothill area is a huge citrus area.

I have tons more pictures, but my computer is not loading very well this morning.  So please help me out, and tell me which of these you think might make a good magazine cover.