Sunday, August 30, 2015

Skeletal Remains

This little number has been posing on the periphery for a while. The portrait of the cactus as an old man has patiently waited its turn while I’ve been getting all gooey about California’s Central and Northern coasts. No longer little guy.

Dessicated and spiney with a texture like Balsa Wood

The skeletal remains of a towering Saguaro come to you from Saguaro National Park West near Tucson. It appeared while Peggy and our good friend, the noted painter Stephen Day, set-up for a day of plein air painting in the park. She’s always said the Sonoran Desert is her favorite of America’s great deserts. I'm conflicted. It's a definite maybe.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Singular as a snowflake



After coffee, a scrumptious pastry and topping off the tank I left Cambria and headed north on PCH. The first site of note was San Simeon Beach, part of William Randolph Hearst’s storied castle and ranch complex and a California State Park. Jutting 300 yards into the crescent cove was a long pier probing blue water and the open Pacific. To the north San Simeon Point, a hillside resplendent with Eucalyptus and Bishop Pines, buffered the cove. A handful of fishermen silently fished for calico surfperch, jacksmelt  and boccacio.

Piers and the pilings on which they stand create receding repetitions that draw the eye into the scene while the surf's frothy residue forms intricate patterns, each as singular as a snowflake.



There's a subtle difference between the two immediately above. The first is toned black and white the second color. Which one works best? I encourage you to enter the actual website and click on the images to make them fill the screen. Lots of detail in the last one especially.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The gold in the Golden State

Spending years three through ten in Central and Northern California I have a warm spot for the rolling hills and Oaks that epitomize the area. From our last California dwelling we could hike the foothills above San Leandro which in the late forties were barren of development. There was an outcropping where we would enjoy a picnic lunch and that we named Eagle Rock or so I remember. To the surprise of absolutely nobody that open space is now a sea of modest homes. It was at Lake Chabot, a county park nestled in those hills, that I was stung by about a million bees. There was crying involved if I’m not mistaken.

Earlier, in our end of the war Salinas days, we often ventured to Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel. That would have been by public transport since didn’t have wheels until more than a decade later. Our path from Salinas took us through the very landscape that that these photographs depict. Those grassy knolls and hillocks say California like nothing else. 

On the morning that I photographed Harold and Pat Glasco, the subjects of last week's post, I made some early morning photographs of a glowing hillside that had just been shorn of its Wheatgrass. That left the graded soil the color and texture of a Jersey cow and made the iconic Oaks really pop.




Then, for good measure, there are these golden rollers reaching down to the Pacific between Cayucos and Cambria.



Middle California's decor package starts with tan carpet spread across undulating hills from San Diego's North County to the upper reaches of Sonoma. That's the better part of 400 miles south to north and fifty miles across from the coast to the San Joaquin Valley. That's enough acreage to make it the dominant feature of coastal Cal. It makes me wonder what the early Spanish must have thought when they beheld such an Eden.





Sunday, August 09, 2015

Harold and Pat Glasco

Harold and Pat Glasco

Harold and Patricia Glasco were high school sweethearts in mid-1950s Oklahoma. In 1973 during his successful career selling construction steel Harold and his bride bought 37 hillside acres of Paso Robles grass and oaks for the princely sum of $850 an acre. They had it paid off by 1992 and today are sitting on a gold mine of Central Coast farm land. It's a vineyard waiting to happen.

Bindi and Harold

As I was photographing the rolling hills and wineries west of Paso Robles I saw Harold tending his Longhorn “Shorty.” So called I imagine because of the length of his horns, When he had finished his ministrations he pulled alongside for some chit chat and next thing I knew I was at the top of the hill meeting Pat and learning about their path to this extraordinary place. Harold would be the first to say that they were blessed.

Harold in his garden of machinery

He’s a loquacious guy, a great storyteller and a born salesman. He gave me the grand tour of their hilltop aerie which was laden with farm equipment in various states of repair. He showed me the well and pump he himself installed and the rainfall jottings he logged every year. Once it was 50 inches a year. Last year it was 10.

Later that night back at my motel Harold called to tell me that he had forgotten to show me a cave on his property and that I should come back the next day. A dark o'clock start up the coast precluded that so I’ll have to take a raincheck from my new friend.   

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Valley Dry

A tinder dry nut farm west of Wasco where our business is roses and prisons

Heading west toward Paso Robles on Highway 46 the California drought grabs you by the throat. California’s San Joaquin Valley, the fruit basket of the nation, is described in textbooks as “semi-arid” but right now it looks like the westward migration of the Mojave Desert. At least that’s the case without irrigation.

More and more plots are lying fallow as precious water is preserved and signs offer sprawling parcels of farmland but attract with few buyers.

Prime farmland or soon to be beachfront property near Blackwell's Crossing where James Dean met his maker.

What do you call an irrigation ditch without water? Desert.
At Blackwell's Crossing with the Coast Range in the distance



Sunday, July 26, 2015

How dry I am

Beauty shot of Lake Nacimiento.

Lake Nacimiento is but a shadow of its former self. After three years of the much ballyhooed drought California it has become a forlorn symbol of the disappearing surface water that plagues the Golden State. Today the lake holds 24% of its deemed capacity, a paltry 90,313 acre feet of the robust 376,304 acre feet it once held. The shrinking lake looks like a bathtub with more and more rings being added with each passing month.

To my untrained eye the lake has fallen nearly 100 feet in depth and has withdrawn from its former shoreline by hundreds of feet. Herein are images to justify my estimates.

Look like a hundred feet to me.

The boat launch from the ever receding shoreline. Note the erstwhile floating docks left and right.

New water line.

From the new water line to the shore that once was.

This one adds no new information but the two women lend poignancy to the tan tableau

Yup. That's somebody's boat dock dangling above the shrinking lake


Locals have all their digits crossed that the El NiƱo winter happens as forecast. More to come from the tinder dry central valley.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The staff of life I'd say

Wood fired oven bread from Wild Flour Bread in Freestone, California

It occurs to me that there’s another gift to be found in bastions of farm to table fare and vineyards and that’s the great bakery. They’re the boulangeries of France, the panadarias of Spain and the artisan bakeries of Sonoma and West Marin. Even a tiny burg with 200 inhabitants may sport such an establishment. Such was the case when my host at Canvas Ranch said I had to visit the Tomales Bakery, open Thursday through Sunday morning, calling it the “best bakery in the world” and I quote.

Tomales Bakery in tiny Tomales, California

Fresh baked goodies including the raspberry chocolate concoction to right

Pie filling from scrumptious Sonoma peaches

Some kind of bun, undoubtedly delicious

I’m indicting the Tomales Bakery in Tomales, the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station and Wild Flour Bread in Freestone as co-conspirators in a four pound assault on my boyish figure in six days in Paso Robles and Sonoma and Marin Counties.

Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station with it's ever present line

Bovine Bakery pastries

Wild Flour Bread at the corner of Bohemian Highway and Route 1 in Freestone. This incredible place sits just across the street from the Joseph Phelps Tasting Room. How convenient.

Manning the woodfired oven at Wild Flour

Note the pile of fresh bread behind the blonde lass. I devoured the best bread I've eaten since pain ancienne in in Riez, France in 2011.

Previously I’ve made the case that where wine grapes grow other marvellous foodstuffs flourish and good restaurants abound. You can add really good bakeries making really good bread to these markers of good living.

Awhile back Peggy were making a list of attributes that any new place we’d chose to live would have to have. A good bread bakery was high on the list. Fresh produce, too. Let’s just say that the Sonoma and Marin Coasts score 100s on the Immel Good Living Index.

Some of these images are on the smallish public domain side. It wasn't till I got home that I concluded that good bread may just be the soul of good eating and of a truly advanced culinary community. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the case.