Fashion, Film and Fantasy

When I got there the music was bumping, pounding in a way guaranteed to give you tinnitus in old age. I wiggled around the limos to get to the velvet rope where the guard did a full look-over before letting me in, the list monitor matched my name to my face, then I was there, in the happening–Beatnik Gallery, fantasy-time Sacramento.

“Fashion On Film” premier, a showcase of short films inspired by the local fashion scene, was a melange of photo shoot, runway show, costume design showcase, make-up and hair design, trunk sale and party in an art gallery with tons of people.

Here’s a link to a video explaining what this fun evening was about

And, here’s a link to film producer/director Matt Salvo’s movie trailer for “Freakquency”

High fashion is not my usual subject matter so I was astonished to find hundreds of people in a big mid-town art gallery celebrating the local fashion scene on a work night.

Runway show at “Fashion on Film” premier

 I was there because a couple of friends have produced fashion films selected for the upcoming Sacramento International Film Festival and another friend, a former high-fashion model, has an insightful new memoir out about her international modeling experiences — Runway: Confession of a not-so supermodel. As a result, beautiful clothes, body art, technology and fun suddenly came together in my life. I wasn’t looking for it. It just happened and now I’m trying to understand “fashion” in this larger, more dynamic context.  

When the party was over, I couldn’t help but wonder What’s the point?  Yes, it was a fun evening. But, I guess I’m wondering why young women model. What I mean is why would any beautiful young woman wants to dress in showy clothes and strut around grabbing attention? If you’re young and beautiful, the attention is automatic so why bother with theatrics? What is the internal dynamic that causes someone to exhibit themselves beyond the usual notice? What’s the emotional payoff on the runway?

One of the short films was the story about a girl caught in the hum-drum of life and college. For her, getting onto the runway was about “the dress.” I assume the motivation was that she got to wear lovely clothes she wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Is that a common motivation for models or is there something deeper? What’s in it for the model?
Meghan modeling, age 18

I asked author/editor Meghan Ward about the motivation and she said: “For me it was ALL about the money. During high school, I was waitressing at the Sign of the Beefcarver for $2.15 an hour plus tips (and the tips were low because we didn’t have our own tables and didn’t serve the food – it was a buffet-style restaurant). I met a girl in a lifeguarding class I was taking who had just been paid $800 for one day modeling in a pizza commercial. I was probably making $50/day waitressing. That clinched it for me.

“But others do it for other reasons,” Meghan said. “I think many just like the attention, the chance to be on a runway or in a magazine and be admired by others. Others do it to get away from their home towns and travel. I think every model has a different reason.”

She has a blog post about the top 10 questions people ask her about modeling. Here’s an answer to the question:

Do you miss it?

Meghan: I miss the travel sometimes. I never stayed in one country for more than three months at a time. I lived in Paris, London, Tokyo, Milan, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich, Sydney, and New York and traveled to Greece and India. And I miss the money sometimes. I could afford designer clothes back then. I owned a $2000 jacket and several $400 pairs of shoes (and this was 25 years ago). I bought my own apartment in Paris when I was 21 (long sold, sniff sniff), and an Alfa Romeo for my French boyfriend at the time. But it’s really true that money doesn’t buy happiness. I’m much happier now wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes  than I ever was back then.
Although not my usual subject matter, here are some raw images captured at the Fashion on Film preview party:
Film producer/director Kim Mims
 on the red carpet

With film producer/director Matt Salvo
Photo by Ching Lee
Cast of “Freakquency” with producer/director Matt Salvo
From “Gatsby Glam” collection
“007 Hot Shot” collection

“Star Wars Fantasy” collection

“Star Wars Fantasy” collection
“Street Smart” collection

Kim Mims talks inspiration/motivation behind
her fashion short: “Life on the Reeway

Why does fashion matter?
Leave a comment.
We’d like to know what you think.
You’ll find us in the Word Garden

The Runaround

Note: The Runaround is an occasional Word Garden feature that includes info on happenings and events sent in that we’re happy to share.


Nov. 8, 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Reception and Photo Archive Sale, Upstairs Studios ARTHOUSE, 1021 R St. Sacramento. Art photographer Dianne Poinski offers her experimental images, proofs, mistakes and miracles at reduced, sometimes “extremely” reduced prices. The sale will continue and be open to the public on Second Saturday, Nov. 9, but the best selection will be found on Friday evening. Find her online at




Nov. 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Art in the Garden at UC Riverside Botanic Garden — to raise funds for the Botanic Gardens. Artists will sell paintings, jewelry, musical instruments, metal work and ceramics. The event is free for members of the Friends of the UCR Botanic Gardens and $4 for non-members, which is the regular gardens admission cost. Parking is $2 in lot 13. Please note that not all of the artists are equipped to take debit or credit cards. For more information about the gardens, including directions, visit


Nov. 16, 2 to 4 p.m., San Francisco, Kashia-Russian Exchange: An Afternoon of Stories, Dance, and FoodThe California Historical Society, 678 Mission St. (map)

In 2012, to mark the bicentennial of the founding of Fort Ross in the Sonoma County coast by Russian fur traders on Kashia land, a group of Kashia Pomo people made a cultural exchange trip to Russia. Join the Honorable Russian Consul General Mr. Sergey V. Petrov of the Russian Federation in San Francisco and Kashia Tribal members for an afternoon of stories from the trip and plans for a future trip, as well as a special performance by the Su-Nu-Nu Shinal dancers and a tasting of traditional foods with a modern flair. Along with the issue of News from Native California featuring the Kashia trip to Russia, there will be Kashia jewelry for sale. The event is free, but donations to The Metini Native Cultural Foundation are gratefully accepted.

Upcoming Outdoor Events from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Tundra Swan
Weekends — Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve. Docent-led walks are scheduled every Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Binoculars and bird books are available for the public to borrow at no cost. The visitor center and main overlook are fully accessible. Day use fee is $4.32 per person, age 16 and older. Groups of 10 or more should schedule a separate tour. For more information, visit
Weekends — Guided Wildlife Tours at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 12:30 to 2 p.m., Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). Each walking tour through this premier birding spot highlights the migratory waterfowl and other wetland wildlife. The cost is included in the wildlife area entrance fee. Tours are canceled in the event of heavy rain. No reservations are necessary for groups of less than 12 people. For more information, please call (530) 846-7505 or email
Weekends — CDFW Sandhill Crane Wetland Tours at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve. Tours are available each month October through February. They are timed to begin in the late afternoon when the crane “fly-in” for the evening roost can be observed. For more information, please visit or call (209) 234-3435. Tours fill quickly. Self-guided tours are also available to view the cranes and other wetland birds.
Yuba River East of Marysville, 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The tour will focus on the salmon life cycle and its natural history. For more information, please
Saturdays — Swan Tours in Yuba County, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. The event explores an area called District 10, a 23,000-acre expanse of privately owned rice fields and restored habitat. This area boasts one of the largest seasonal concentrations of tundra swans in the Central Valley as well as a variety of other species, including ducks, geese, shorebirds, herons, egrets and raptors. For more information, please

The Run Around: Fall Fantastic

Fall is my favorite time of year, partly because my birthday is in November, but mostly because when I’m not writing novels, short stories and poetry, I’m writing about agriculture and the environment. People send me information about all kinds of outdoor arts & environment events they hope I’ll share and I’m happy to oblige.
But, around harvest time, I get more bushels of fun information than usual. Lots of these opportunities are from friends and are just too good not to share. Run through the upcoming events and you’ll  see why I just can’t hit the “Delete Message” button. Hope you can take advantage of a few of these opportunities. It’s the time of year to forget traffic congestion, huge crowds and high prices. Get out there and Run Around!
If you don’t live in California, here’s the secret: Fall is an especially beautiful and exciting time in California, the nation’s most productive farm state. No soybeans here folks. Instead, as my farmer friends say, “we’re blowin’ and goin'” to bring in the most amazing array of fresh food crops produced literally anywhere in the world — more than 350 different crops — from almonds to brussels sprouts to winegrapes to zucchini.
This astonishing bounty gives rise to all manner of celebrations, parties, adventures, along with great music and art. In California, fall is about far more than pumpkins, scarecrows and face painting. Don’t believe it? Take a look: 
Oct. 5th & 6th Amador Wine Country Wineries open their cellar doors and tasting rooms to bring the harvest close to you! Big Crush 2013 once again rolls out with 38 wineries presenting cuisine from all over the world and music from acoustic to rock & roll wafting from every oak tree and crush pad in the county!

Most exciting are the harvest activities: personal vineyard tours, blending seminars, grape stomps, and all manner of ways to get into the mix of the most anticipated season of the year in this Sierra foothills wine region.

Go to the Amador Wine Country events page at and find specific winery offerings from all of our 38 member wineries – here are just a few;
Avio’s – “Barbed Wire” Spaghetti & Meatballs, live music and demo, “From Vine to Bottle-How grapes Become Wine.”
Karmere Vineyards & Winery– Blues, Barbera, Barrels & Boogying.
Nine Gables– Chile & Cornbread, an art show and discount on wines.
Terre Rouge/Easton Wines– showcase 8 different 90pt/plus wines. Blues, BBQ lunch on the patio.
TKC – Barrel tasting with sausages & Italian appetizers.
Tickets are good for wine tasting, food and all activities – $40 pp. in advance for the weekend. Sunday only tickets are $30 pp. in advance. Tickets are $5 more the day of the event. Each ticket includes a commemorative wine glass. Buy tickets online at
  Collectable poster by artist, Jake Early – $10 at Amador Vintners Association.
Oct. 6th UC Riverside Garden Festival

Friends of the University of California, Riverside Botanic Gardens host a free Garden Festival to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the gardens and help launch a fundraising effort to establish a Children’s Fund as way to usher in the next 50 years. The Garden Festival includes children’s activities, demonstrations, music and food. The event is free, but there is a $5 parking fee.

For a peek at the garden and kids playing there, check out the video at

Oct. 4th-14th to Honor the 75th Anniversary of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas embarks on a cross-country program that retraces the Joad Family Journey along America’s Route 66 through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona at the height of the Dust Bowl – toward California and their hopes of a better life.
The artistic team – playwright Octavio Solis, visual artist Patricia Wakida and filmmaker P.J. Palmer – join the Center to collect oral histories from people they meet along the way. The team seeks answers to three critical questions inspired by The Grapes of Wrath – What keeps you going? What do you turn to in hard times? What brings you joy when times are tough?
The stories will inform new exhibitions as part of the 2014 Steinbeck Festival, May 2-4 at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA.

Here is a rundown of the Journey”s California stops and programs:
Oct. 13 – Bakersfield, CA (photo, interview and video opps) · 5:30-7 PM: Artists panel discussion with Octavio Solis, P.J. Palmer and Patricia Wakida at the December Reading Room in the Walter Stiern Library on the CSU-Bakersfield campus.
Oct. 14 – Arvin, CA (photo, interview and video opps· 10:30 AM: Penguin Group Book Truck giveaway and art workshop · 1 PM: Oral history collection at Weedpatch Labor Camp.
Who says books and writers don’t matter? Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath continue to inspire a nation forever embarked on a journey to a better life. The artists will be blogging throughout the Journey, and will invite public collaboration and feedback through multiple social media channels. The official Journey blog is live at

Oct. 12th Dia de Los Muertos Harvest Fiesta
Ceja Estate, 1016 Las Amigas Rd, Napa, CA 94599 5 PM to 8 PM

Join a vibrant, traditional procession to the ceremonial alter. Enjoy live Mariachi music and Aztec ritual dancers in full costume. Candlelight ceremony, tapas and Ceja vino. Costume contest for the best dressed skeleton. Cost: Wine Club Members: $50 per person; Non members: $75 per person.

RSVP: Jennifer@cejavineyards.comor call 707-255-3954

And, check out Ceja Vineyards in Sunset’s latest issue “The Best of Fall.” Great recipes and wine pairings: Elegant Ceviche to Savory Tacos. For a copy of my friend Delia Ceja’s famous bread pudding recipe, visit California Bountiful Simply Sumptuous

 OCT. 20th UC Davis Arboretum 9 AM – 1 PM:
“The New Front Yard”—that’s the focus for the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum plant sales this fall. At these sales customers will find plants suitable for replacing their lawns or refreshing their landscapes.

Attractive, low-water, easy-care California native plants, as well as a large selection of Arboretum All-Stars and other regionally-appropriate plants, will once again line the aisles of the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery in October so mark your calendars and plan to arrive early for the best selection!

LOCATION: UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery (MAP)

 Oct. 26th Chrysanthemum Show at Yamagami’s Nursery

Free Chrysanthemum Show and Info with members of the San Francisco Bay Area Chrysanthemum Society. Yamagami’s Nursery, 1361 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95014
Tel: (408) 252-3347
Nov. 2nd Eagles and Osprey Kayaking Free Tour

10 AM New Melones Lake Visitor Center, near Sonora CA

Coyote Creek is the home of year-round raptors! Join Ranger Hilary on this kayaking-birding adventure. Launch from the Mark Twain Day Use Area. This is a strenuous paddling tour. Expect to be out on the water for 4 to 5 hours.

Open to experienced swimmers with their own kayak or other non-motorized boat. Bring U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket (properly fitted and serviceable), paddles, sunscreen, hat, water and lunch; waterproof binoculars are recommended. Free, but space is limited, and pre-registration is required.

Please contact Ranger Hilary at 209-536-9094 ext. 236 to reserve your place. Meet at the New Melones Lake Visitor Center at 10 a.m. Information on New Melones activities, directions, pet restrictions or other questions, please call 209-536-9543 (TTY 800-877-8339) or visit the New Melones Lake Website at
Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.


Winter Swan Tours in Sacramento Valley
Nov. 16 (my birthday, if you’re wondering) through January 2014
Each year thousands of tundra swans migrate from northern Alaska to their ancestral wintering grounds near Marysville. These wintering grounds are one of the premier locations for viewing swans in California.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with local rice farmers, offers free tundra swan tours on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Pre-registration is required at
Participants can learn about the natural history of tundra swans as well as ducks, geese, shorebirds, herons, egrets and raptors, which are commonly seen in the area covering 23,000 acres of rice fields and restored wetland habitat.
The swan tours are part of CDFW’s wildlife viewing services program, which includes similar outdoors opportunities at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Isenberg Crane Reserve and North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. For more information on the tours, please call (916) 358-2869 or e-mail
CDFW will also co-sponsor the 2013 California Swan Festival, to be held in Marysville on Nov. 9-10. For more information on the festival, please visit

If you’re planning fun, low-cost, unusual outdoor events and activities, send your info to Write “The Run Around” in the subject line. I’ll try and and put another blog post together in a few weeks. See you in the garden.

Stolen History, Happy Ending

A. Andrews Jewelry Box, Circa 1869-1878


 A few weeks ago, I wrote about the theft of a historic, gold inlaid jewelry box worth more than $800,000 from the Oakland Museum of California. At the time I lamented the loss of this artifact from the California Gold Rush Era because it represented not just the theft of an astonishingly beautiful object, but also the theft of our history, the heritage of future generations.

The baseness of this act was underscored for me because I’d just introduced my five-year-old grand nephew, Joaquin, to the world of fine art through a visit to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento on a rainy day in December. Joaquin was enchanted by the collection and we spent several hours wandering through the galleries, talking about what we were seeing.

I knew the chances of recovering this art were slim, that great art works are stolen all the time, never to be seen again. The FBI reports that art and cultural property crime—which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines—is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.

To recover these precious pieces—and to bring these criminals to justice—the FBI has a dedicated Art Crime Team of 14 special agents, supported by three special trial attorneys for prosecutions. And it runs the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of reported stolen art and cultural properties for the use of law enforcement agencies across the world.


The painting, Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair, was stolen during an armed robbery on September 8, 2011. An oil painting by French Impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir, it was stolen during a home invasion robbery in Houston—and is estimated to be worth $1 million. It is the newest addition to the FBI’s Top Ten Art Crimes list.
“We hope that adding the Renoir to the FBI’s Top Ten list and publicizing the reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of the painting will prompt someone to come forward,” said Peter Schneider, a sergeant with the Houston Police Department who is a member of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force in Houston.

The FBI established the Top Ten Art Crimes list in 2005. Since then, six paintings and one sculpture have been recovered, including a Rembrandt self-portrait and another Renoir work titled Young Parisian stolen from Sweden’s National Museum.

Although Renoir’s lovely Madeleine has yet to turn up, the case of California’s million dollar jewelry box has been solved. Last week Oakland police recovered the artifact from a parolee with a long criminal history. The man is now in jail awaiting trial.

Displaying the jewelry box under Plexiglas, with an armed guard standing by, museum Director Lori Fogarty said at a press conference last week that the box, which was stolen in the 1970s and recovered years later, would be returned to public display.

“It is our mission and our responsibility to share California’s history with the public,” Fogarty told the media. “If we were just a treasure trove, a mausoleum for objects, we wouldn’t be serving our mission.”

Visit OMCA, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94607.

Online info at


In Search of Priceless Delights

Stolen pioneer jewelry box

During Christmas time, my nephew and his family visited for a couple of days. It was wonderful to spend time with them, especially their three small children. We enjoyed the tree, a warm fire and a variety of treats. But the holidays brought torrential rains to Sacramento and the kids couldn’t play outside. The oldest, Sofia, went shopping with her mother and grandmother. Mateo, just a few months old, went along for the trip to the mall.

That left Joaquin, almost 5 and full of energy. The men watched football and Joaquin felt left out. So I scooped him up and we went to the Crocker Art Museum. Joaquin was enchanted. We explored all the galleries, moving at the pace Joaquin set. We talked about the traveling Norman Rockwell exhibit, lingered over landscapes that included animals, especially deer, we talked about the Samurai armor and studied Japanese swords.

We also talked about the rarity of the objects and their value and I explained in terms I hope were understood by a child that much of what we saw that day was priceless, which led to a discussion of security and museum etiquette — no touching.

As I was pointing out ceiling surveillance cameras to my amazed grandnephew, security guards rushed through the Asian art gallery, as if on cue, talking into their radios, charging ahead, in hot pursuit, underlining my points to Joaquin about value and the security needed in a treasure house. I could see he was greatly impressed–by the beauty, history and and value of the art that we enjoyed, and the efforts made to protect it.

A few weeks ago, a historical 19th century, Pioneer-era quartz and gold jewelry box was stolen from the Oakland Museum of California’s permanent collection. I’ve been planning to take Joaquin to the Oakland Museum and when I read about the theft, I thought about him and the conversation we’d had on that rainy day in December, recalled how engaged he’d been at the Crocker, how touched by the beauty he saw, how he recognized the importance of maintaining and protecting the treasures. 

The Oakland Museum recently offered a reward for return of the jewelry box — $12,000.

Jewelry Box Description:

Made between 1869 and 1878 by A. Andrews, a San Francisco goldsmith. It is made of California gold, and features a rectangular moulded top and base that rests on four feet formed of four miniature female figures depicting allegorical California.

The artifact is seven inches in height; nine inches on length; and seven inches in depth. The top pilasters and mouldings are of veined gold quartz in tones of grey and cream with veining of gold. The interior of the top is recessed and engraved in full relief with scene of the early days of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads, mounted Native Americans, herds of buffalo, and a train of cars. The gold quartz is cut and set in mosaic fashion in the top of the lid, exterior and the sides are gold veined quartz.

I don’t expect you’ll stumble across this treasure as you go about your daily lives, but want to point out the loss, not just of something of great monetary value, but of an object that’s part of our heritage, that holds the promise of priceless delights for grownups and children, alike. Sadly, not anymore.

Questions about the jewelry box, the reward, or the Oakland Museum of California in general should be directed to 510-318-8460 or

The Run Around – December is a Great Time to Get Outdoors

For me December is a time of sensory memory – the smell of cinnamon, peppermint and nutmeg; the comfort of a fire and an easy chair; the twinkle of lights and the flutter of falling leaves. It’s also a great time to be outdoors in California, making memories and getting your boots muddy.

The Sacramento Valley, where I live, is a network of wetlands in winter and it’s a popular stop for birds migrating down the Pacific Flyway. Estimates put the number of annual avian visitors in the millions. It’s easy to get out and enjoy the astonishing variety and beauty of these creatures, a great break from the onslaught of commercialism that clogs the airways and the roadways.

The valley’s wildlife refuges are easy to get to by car, the walks gentle along flat marshlands; the surprises in the grasses and reeds along the water — amazing. Here are some suggestions for building winter memories for children and grownups alike:  

Sandhill Crane takes flight
Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
2012 California Department of Fish and Game Calendar
Sandhill Crane Wetland Tours, the first three weekends of each fall/winter month through February at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Lodi. The docent-led tours start approximately 90 minutes before sundown and run to about 30 minutes after sunset. Pre-tour registration is required online at and may be made up to six weeks in advance. Suggested donation is $10 per adult. The South unit of Woodbridge ER is accessible to the public at any time. It features informative interpretive panels, and viewing of sandhill crane ‘fly-over’ at sundown is common. The Woodbridge North unit (accessible only by tour) includes a bird-viewing blind and typically receives the ‘fly-in’ where the cranes come to roost for the night.For more information please visit the website or call (209) 948-7708.

Guided Swan Tours in rice fields near Marysville, Saturdays in December, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. Driving tours along a short route with very little walking required. See tundra swans, ducks, geese, cranes, shorebirds, white pelicans, herons, egrets and raptors. Pre-registration is required on the DFG website, Tours are free, but registrants are encouraged to make a donation online to the California Wildlife Foundation to support this program. For more information please call (916) 358-2852.

Weekends — Guided Wetland Tours of Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 12:30 to 2 p.m. at 3207 Rutherford Rd, Gridley (95948). On the Pacific Flyway at the base of the Sutter Buttes, Gray Lodge WA is one of the premier birding spots in northern California. This public land provides appealing habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife. Migrating ducks arrive through fall and winter populations grow to hundreds of thousands. Local experts lead a 0.3-mile stroll on a paved trail to an elevated viewing deck and discuss wildlife adaptations, natural history, conservation efforts and how to identify wildlife. Tours are included in the $4 entrance fee and self-guided visitors are also welcome. Tours are cancelled in heavy rain. Please make reservations for groups of 12 or more. For information or scheduling, contact the Gray Lodge WA Naturalist Office at (530) 846-7505 or, and

Bobcat in the Grass
Courtesy Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Weekends — Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve docent-led walks, every Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Binoculars and bird books available to borrow at no cost. Visitor Center and main overlook are fully accessible. Day use fee is $4.32 per person, age 16 and older. Groups of 10 or more should schedule a separate tour. Directions and more information at

The Run Around: Time to Get Outdoors!

Here are some ideas for getting out and about this spring. There are planty of cool things going on, too many to list in a single post. Check back in a couple of weeks for more ideas and opportunities to get outdoors. 
Wildflower Wonders
Soil Born Farm, Rancho Cordova
Saturday, April 14
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Plant Exhibit & Interactive Fun: See a showcase of native plant found in the American River Watershed with experts naturalists as your guide. The focus will be on flowers, lots of flowers. Get lost in the delicate details of flowers and their pollinators. Pick up a microscope and take a look.

Elderberry Farms, home nursery for the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society, along with Cornflower Farms, will offer plants for sale. And, gardening experts will be there, too. They’ll offer advice on the best plants for your garden. Look for gardening books, field guides and phamphlets.

Bring the kids. Joing a “walk & talk” to enjoy the wildflowers and learn why including native plants in your garden can be both beautiful and good for the enviornment. For more information, contact Chris at P.S. Want to be convinced about the beauty of natives, take the garden tour, March 31. 
Walk-About in Marin

Sign up for Marin Agricultural Land Trust walking and hiking events. Many walk abouts are family friendly and easy. MALT is a private, member-supported non-profit created in 1980 by ranchers and environmentalists to preserve Marin County farmland for agricultural use. MALT eliminates the development potential on farmland through the acquisition of conservation easements in voluntary transactions with landowners.

MALT also promotes public awareness and encourages policies that support and enhance agriculture. Here’s a beautiful slide show of things to see in West Marin, where I was born and where my family ranched for generations. Take a look. It’ll make you want to get out and stretch:

Here are some upcoming MALT events:

McEvoy Olive Ranch Tour
Friday, April 20

Enjoy the display of 18,000 organic olive trees in bloom at this beautiful ranch. While standing in the orchards scattered with wildflowers you will hear how olives are grown, then walk through the pressing facility and learn how oil is extracted from the olives. Taste the oil and, if you like, purchase items made with this wonderful farm product.

Pre-registration is required. Click here to register.
TIME: 9:45 a.m. – noonWHERE TO MEET: McEvoy Ranch, Petaluma (Please use the following map for directions—Googlemaps, Mapquest and other GPS directional systems are often inaccurate out here in West Marin: map)
COST: $30 MALT members / $40 non-members
WHAT TO BRING: Water and walking shoes

Owls in Nicasio
 A Family-Friendly Talk & Night Hike
Saturday, April 21

Meet live owls including Barn and Spotted owls and learn about their roles in our ecosystem from Hungry Owl Project staff. We will hear from MALT staff and local organic ranchers about protected owl habitat, the role of owls on ranches and take a nighttime walk to observe owls in action. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served.

Pre-registration is required. Click here to register.
TIME: 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
WHERE TO MEET: Nicasio School, 5555 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio (
COST: Talk Only: $20 MALT members / $25 non-members / $10 children
Talk & Hike: $30 MALT members / $35 non-members / $10 children
WHAT TO BRING: Warm clothes, walking shoes, water and flashlight

And, Exactly What Kind of Person Brings an Owl to a Wine Tasting?

Whoooo would bring an owl to a food and wine tasting event? We would of course, because this isn’t just any event winging its way towards you on April 20-22 – it’s the 6th Annual Central Coast Earth Day Food and Wine Festival!

You’d be wise to get your tickets now for this weekend-long celebration of all that’s best here on the Central Coast because it’s going to be a hoot. The main event is Saturday’s Earth Day Food & Wine Tasting at beautiful Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery where over 200 purveyors of sustainably produced foods and wine will be on hand for a truly unique event. We’ve got farmers and chefs, winegrowers and winemakers, and yes, there will be an owl on hand. Or rather, on the hand of the falconer who’ll explain how owls and raptors are used in sustainable bird management.

In addition to all the local fruits and veggies, meats and cheeses, olive oils and artisanal vinegars, award-winning wines and beers, you can enjoy dancing to live music, a silent auction, and just good times. We think you’ll see that for a bunch of farmers dedicated to sustainability and nurturing the earth, we sure know how to throw one heck of a party!

Event proceeds support research, demonstration, and farm worker outreach programs of the Central Coast Vineyard Team, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable winegrowing since 1994.
IN AID OF TURTLES?World Turtle Awareness Day – May 23

and endearing animals. Explore the oceans with a guide that’s been around for more than 200 million years. Here’s a sample of volunteer action projects for the turtle lovers amongst us:

Turtle Research in Baja, Mexico:
Join Baja Expeditions and RED Sustainable Travel, on a unique whale watching and turtle research excursion to Magdalena Bay. Volunteers will have the unique opportunity to participate in hands-on green sea turtle research with local conservati
Turtles, the easy going “dudes” of the ocean, have fascinated us for generations, in turn becoming symbols of patience and wisdom. We are in love with turtles, each of them with a unique story underneath that hard shell. Historically they were the slow and steady characters of children’s literature, and as of late, take on the hero role in cartoons such as Finding Nemo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Today these same heroes need our help. GoVoluntouring connects volunteers with hundreds of projects all over the world, and is host to a growing number of turtle specific volunteer vacations.

Pollution, industrial fishing, and habitat loss are the main forces pushing turtles evermore towards endangered status. The American Tortoise Rescue established World Turtle Day in 2000; with its aim is to highlight the conservation efforts needed to help these placid onists.

SEE Turtle founder, Brad Nahill, has this to say about volunteering with turtles, “Volunteering with a sea turtle conservation project is very rewarding with benefits including personal satisfaction, resume material, lots of exercise, new friends from around the world, and great stories to tell. It should not be taken lightly though; it is hard work and the local organizations that run the turtle programs expect volunteers to fulfill their obligations.”

Monitoring Nesting Sea Turtles in the Grenadines Archipelago:

As the Kido Foundation (part of the WIDECAST family) points out, they survived the glacial era, yet today they may not survive the destruction of their species and habitat by humans, unless we actively protect them. Helping mother turtles to nest safely and protecting their nests and hatchlings is essential for their population to survive the odds against them and for maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Volunteers will make a difference not only for sea turtles, but also for the local communities. This project trains and employs guides from the nearby villages and promotes turtle conservation awareness in local schools.

Tagging the Terrapins of the Jersey Shore:

The New Jersey Pine Barrens is a protected Biosphere Reserve designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and covers nearly one quarter of the state of New Jersey. Volunteers will be integrated into teams to locate nesting female terrapins, will set and check traps, track terrapins with radio-telemetry equipment, mark and tag them whilst taking and recording measurements of body size and weight. During late summer, volunteers will assist with nest monitoring and determination of hatchling success. They will then get to assist in marking and releasing hatchlings that emerge from nests.

Sea Turtle Conservation in Sri Lanka:
In Sri Lanka, the paradise island, five species of sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Volunteers help to ensure these eggs hatch and that the baby turtles make it to a safe place in the ocean. The LEO Project Foundation sea turtle volunteer program not only takes care of the eggs, baby turtles and wounded turtles, but also educates tourists and locals on sea turtles and their endangered status.

GoVoluntouring is an online community for volunteers, overseas teachers, and learners’ abroad that allow users to perform detailed searches from a huge database of projects and programs. With thousands of programs to choose from, GoVoluntouring offers pre-checked charities and non-profits the chance to connect with the volunteers they desperately need, with no added cost to the user or the volunteer organization. For more information visit

Fun events easier to find with new Corps parks calendar

Englebright Dam
Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Finding fun, family-friendly events at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District’s 10 parks in California is easier now with a new events calendar on our website. The calendar announces all upcoming events that are open to the public.

“With several events happening at the start of 2012, we felt that this was a good way to start off the new year and introduce the calendar to the public,” said Jon Friedman, senior district park ranger. “There’s always something going on at our parks. We’ve got everything from Civil War reenactments to salmon festivals to movie nights under the stars in our open-air amphitheaters happening any given weekend. We hope the calendar makes these affordable events that much easier to find.”

The parks offer sites rich in California history, with outdoor recreation ranging from camping to fishing, boating, hiking and much more.

The Corps of Engineers is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor recreation, hosting more than 370 million visits per year at 421 lakes and river parks. For more information on Corps recreation opportunities visit

The calendar and much more information about the parks, including helpful water safety tools at:

Monkey Flower Bush
Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

See you in the sunshine. Wear a hat!