Dahlias: Picture Perfect

I got my first “grown-up” camera in 1980 after graduating from journalism school at San Francisco State. Back in the day, cub reporters needed a camera and a car to get a foot in the door at a newspaper. I had a yellow Volkswagen bug, but no camera. To make matters worse, my training focused on writing and I’d never held anything more complicated in my hand than an old Instamatic.

To remedy this gap in my professional training, I took my brand new Konica T4 to Golden Gate Park to learn my way around the equipment and take practice shots, using Kodachrome film in 24-shot rolls. At the time digital was still connected to fingers and complicated math problems, not cameras. Not like today’s sophisticated point-and-shoot cameras.


San Francisco dahlia expert Erik Juul in the dell outside the Conservatory of Flowers.       Photo by Gerda Juul

My first stop on my test run was the Dahlia Dell at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. My beginner’s shots weren’t always in focus or properly lighted, but the experience of looking deeply into the color and bloom structure of dahlias created a love for this wildly beautiful flower and I was hooked.

Native to Mexico and Central America, the flower has been cultivated and bred for ever more showy flowers for more than 200 years in Europe and North America. The flowering ornamental is named for Andreas Dahl, Swedish scientist and environmentalist. They generally flower from May to November, with the heaviest bloom in late summer into fall.


While history and science are important, I was reminded of my emotional attachment to dahlias the other day when my friend Kasey Kronquist, head of the California Cut Flower Commission, posted some photos from an amazing Field to Vase Dinner at the farm of world-renowned celebrity event designer—turned American flower farmer—David Beahm.


David Beahm

He owns Thistle Dew Farm in Quakertown Pennsylvania and a major events company in New York City. Think parties for the Oscars, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, Christian Dior, McDonald’s and Louis Vuitton, to name a few. He does weddings and social events all over the world. As to the price tag for these parties, one can only guess.

Beyond high society event planners turned farmers, these dinners are held at premier flower farms around the country. They feature gourmet food, fine wines and elegant settings. Of course, there are flowers.  I mean lots and lots of flowers at the peak of perfection.

The next event will be Oct. 16 at Cornerstone in Sonoma California. Guests will be among the first to experience the new home of Sunset Magazine’s test garden at Cornerstone. Guests will be greeted by Sunset garden editor Johanna Silver, who will host the sneak peak of the test gardens. Usually a sellout, tickets can be purchased online at http://www.americangrownflowers.org/fieldtovase/

Field to Vase dinners are sponsored by the American Grown Flower organization to promote the nation’s floral industry. The events are more romantic than chick flicks, more fun than pulling weeds and more delicious than a mere 5-stars.

And then, when you toss in specialty flower farmers like Michael Genovese, owner of Summer Dreams Farm Oxford, Michigan, well, I’m done here.  I’m just telling you, when I started out with a camera and some vague career dreams, there weren’t any farmers like Michael hanging out at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.


Michael Genovese, owner of Summer Dreams Farm, Oxford, Michigan


Michael Genovese and friend on the farm.

But, if you’re ready to be seduced, as I was — by the beauty of dahlias — I mean, here’s a list of display gardens throughout the U.S. and Canada:  http://www.dahlias.net/OGtopbox/opengarden.htm

If you want to grow dahlias, here’s a link to the American Dahlia Society: http://www.dahlia.org/ They have chapters around the U.S. where experts and enthusiasts gather to teach and trade the latest dahlia hybrids.

And, it’s not too late to catch the last of the dahlia bloom in Golden Gate Park, but hurry. Bye the way, dahlias have been the City of San Francisco’s official flower since 1926. More info on visiting the park is online at https://goldengatepark.com/dahlia-dell-garden-in-golden-gate-park.html

Can’t get enough dahlias? Here’s a link to free dahlia flower computer wallpaper: http://collectwall.com/topwallpaper/dahlia-flower-hd-wallpaper.html


Planting a Frangipani Paradise

Lei fragipani

Plumeria or frangipani blooms

Skeptic that I am, paradise seemed like a child’s dream. There are no places of infinite languor, all needs met without trying or asking. But the smell of frangipani came through the industrial smell of transportation and commerce, through the heat and hustle, through the grit, with a promise of luxury. It sweetly broke down my reservations.The first time I landed in Honolulu, it came to me on humid heat waves, a sweet fragrance wafting over and under the acrid smell of jet fuel, the smell of paradise, the promise of languid afternoons on shaded lanais and morning swims in luxuriously rolling surf, days surrounded by flowers and exotic birds. But, I did not know the name of this smell. It was faint, delicate, elusive.

I’ve been back to Hawaii many times since first smelling frangipani, or Plumeria. I’ve marveled at the flowering trees growing around white sand beaches, beside condos I’ve rented, along streets and parks and in public gardens. I see its beauty repeated in art and jewelry, its essence added to colognes and lotions.

I smell it and relax, fall in love, let go. Once I was so overcome with lust for the smell, I tapped the ATM at the Honolulu airport and bought dozens of leis to bring home, over-drawing my checking account and creating a financial mess to clean up when I got home. But I passed out leis to family and friends when I got home, saving some to ring my bed pillow for a sweet, delicious sleep. Such is my lust for this seductive smell.

The strength of this fragrance pulls me in every time I land in Honolulu and the strength of the aroma is thanks to the women who work in the airport’s lei stalls, women who for generations have laced the waxy, aromatic flowers into leis used to grace the necks of visitors with Aloha greetings as they arrive. The women have a long history of welcome that never fails to melt my starchy mainland resistance to the pleasures of the islands. Click the caption below for a feature on these Honolulu lei makers.

Lei Beetles

Lei history 2

Selling leis from the back of a woody

Selling leis from the back of a woody. Historical images courtesy: Hawaii State Archive

I got a whiff of paradise again the other day, but just a hint, in a newsletter from the folks at Yamagami’s Nursery in Cupertino. They made this offer: “Import the fragrance of aloha into your garden by planting Plumerias. These fragrant sub-tropical beauties have come to symbolize the mellow vibes of the islands.”

They say the woody shrub is easier to grow than you might think. A few precautions in the winter, as covered in Yamagami’s FREE Plumeria Guide, are all that’s needed. They offer some of the best colors and selections from California’s leading Plumeria grower. Supply is limited.

Mature plumeria tree.

Mature plumeria tree.

Plumeria (common name Frangipani) is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family. It contains seven or eight species of mainly deciduous shrubs and small trees. They are native to Central AmericaMexico, the Caribbean, and South America as far south as Brazil, but can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

A word of caution, the plant is in the oleander family, a plant that can be toxic to horses. Check with nursery staff before planting around corrals. Also consider other plant choices for kennel and children’s play areas.

I’m afraid Plumeria won’t grow very well in the Sacramento Valley where I live, but those in humid, coastal areas can probably bring the promise of paradise to flower. The South Coast is especially well suited to grow plumeria. I hope you’ll consider planting some frangipani trees. Maybe the fragrance will find its way to my garden on a warm summer morning and awaken me to the promise of paradise.

Going Wild in the Wilderness

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
― John Muir

View all my reviews

Beautifully written — lyrical, forthright, introspective — Wild is a must read for any beginner thinking about a wilderness adventure. It’s a vivid illustration of what not to do: zero physical preparation, pack too heavy, boots too small, wrong equipment, scant outdoor skills. It also highlights how forgiving the gods can be with the innocent.

Cheryl Strayed on the PCT

Completing such an arduous hike undoubtedly boosted the author’s self-esteem and helped her find a good path when she finished, something like a spirit quest undertaken by Native American youth, but the resolution of personal losses and traumas as she transitioned from adolescence — death of a parent, divorce, drug use, abortion, domestic violence — aren’t so easily resolved by a long walk. Those tasks take a lifetime.

And, having hiked the John Muir Trail in 1971 before the Pacific Crest Trail was completed — the portion the author skipped because of snow — and having lived in the wilderness at various times, I’ve come to know people with real survival skills and a deep appreciation of majesty and mystery to be found in America’s most remote and untouched areas. This unique, first-hand knowledge acquired over years of living in nature, along with respect for wildlife and the environment, seems missing in Wild. The memoir covers a harrowing trek to resolve inner anxiety, not a hike to the “heart of the world.”  

The fate of Christopher McCandless in Alaska, as described in Jon Krakauer’s biography on his life, Into the Wild, underscores that death lies in wait in the wilderness for those unprepared or who take venturing there lightly.  The TV documentary “Grizzly Man,” outlines the arrogant efforts and violent death of Timothy Treadwell in the Alaskan wilderness trying to become one with grizzly bears. Fortunately for us, Cheryl Strayed made it and we can look forward to the pleasure of reading her future work. 

The hike with the author along 1,000 miles of the PCT was mostly engaging, but there were tedious sections of the journey (much like a long hike) that I skipped over in the book. I’m thankful her foot sores didn’t result in infection that required an emergency rescue. I regret that she chose to sleep beside a stagnant pond and became covered with frogs — not because she awoke in the night with the amphibians crawling over her — but because the watering hole was essential to nocturnal wildlife that depended on the water source and her presence likely disrupted access. Also amphibian populations in the Sierra, and throughout the world are declining, which makes leaving their habitat as undisturbed as possible very important.

I question Strayed’s recollection of some wildlife observations — finding rattlesnakes on the trail on intensely hot days, for example. Reptiles don’t have the ability to regulate their own body temperature and usually withdraw during the hottest hours of the day, becoming more active at dusk and dawn to hunt. It strikes me as highly unusual to find snakes in the middle of a trail at high noon in the summer.

Although, I have seen rattlesnakes mating in a shady spot on a trail along the Yuba River in late morning, their bodies entwined and lifted together about three feet off the ground. Amazing to happen upon — but it was spring and mating season.

Author Cheryl Strayed

With about 3,400 Amazon reviews, more than half of them glowing, Wild doesn’t need a critique from me to be a literary success. It is a good book, engagingly and honestly written and has justly attracted the attention of the media, including Oprah, who said she relaunched her book club on the strength of the book’s appeal, as well as Hollywood. 

However, a negative response from the other half of readers who had issues with the memoir puts a finger on what bothered me about the book. Here’s an example:

I have read “Wild” and yes, it is good writing, as writing goes. But it is a serious danger to any who would ever attempt to emulate what Ms. Strayed attempted. In fact, I strongly suggest that her book has opened a Pandora’s Box of foolish and dangerous (dis)regard for wilderness backpacking.

“I am among that small group of folks who do not celebrate her best-selling book. I think it is a dangerous book that gives a sense of permission to people who have no business being on the Pacific Crest Trail no matter how expensive their equipment or determined their attitudes.

“In the fifty-plus years I have been backpacking, in the past two summers that I have been on the PCT, I have never encountered such a large number of individuals who were a hair’s brea(d)th away from disaster. I blame that on “Wild.”

The negative reviews also include observations about the author missing the point of venturing into the wilderness — to honor nature, not self, which John Muir alludes to in his writing.

Now a forthcoming movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, Wild will continue to engage readers and audiences and will underscore the value of our nation’s wilderness areas. I just hope it doesn’t encourage folks to set off with a pocket knife and a hank of rope in an attempt to conquer the Wild and find themselves. They may find more than a sweaty walk in a beautiful setting.

I was talking with a friend the other day, a high Sierra fly fisherman. He said before Wild was published in 2012 and became a bestseller, about 250 people a year signed the trail registers where he hikes and fishes along the PCT. Last summer more than 2,500 people registered.

A 1998 study of fatalities and in juries in California’s wilderness areas by the National Institutes of Health found 78 fatalities during a three-year study period in the 90s. Researchers said statistics for wilderness injuries — broken bones, sprains, lacerations and infections — were incomplete because there’s no systematic data collection.

After the movie based on Wild comes out next summer, I wonder if the numbers of injuries and deaths will skyrocket? If so, preparation and respect will help hikers avoid the need to pull their sorry behinds out of the hills, which is costly and dangerous. I hope nobody gets seriously hurt or killed out there because of false bravado gained from a quick read of Wild or a couple of hours at the movies with Reese.

I’m taking in the view from a summit
on the John Muir Trail in 1971

I recommend Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a thought-provoking memoir of personal growth and redemption, but caution against setting off alone in the wilderness without adequate knowledge and preparation. Not everyone who foolishly does so makes it back uninjured or alive.

Stay safe out there, see you in the 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 www.dpoinski.com




Nov. 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Art in the Garden at UC Riverside Botanic Garden www.ucr.edu — 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 http://gardens.ucr.edu/.


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 www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/er/region4/elkhorn.html.
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 Lori.Dieter@wildlife.ca.gov.
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 www.dfg.ca.gov/delta/cranetour/ 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 visitwww.dfg.ca.gov/regions/2/salmontours/.
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 visitwww.dfg.ca.gov/regions/2/swantours/.

Bears in the Garden: Snoozin’ & Cruzin’

Experts Remind Tahoe Residents and Visitors
to Secure Doors, Windows, Crawl Spaces from Bears
Tahoe aspen light in fall.
Like millions of people around the the world, I love Lake Tahoe. It’s only a couple of hours drive from my home in Sacramento, making it sort of my backyard, a place to enjoy during all seasons — but fall is a time that calls for some wildlife precautions. Lake Tahoe — and the entire Sierra Nevada — are bear country. There’s a reason California is called the Bear Flag Republic and with populations protected, they’re increasing in numbers.
With cold winter months just around the corner, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is partnering with the BEAR League to urge Tahoe residents, visitors, businesses and cabin owners to remember to bear-proof their properties as bears start to dig in for hibernation.
This time of year, they say, black bears are trying to consume as many calories as possible and are looking for that ideal spot for their winter sleep. Unfortunately, bears are often attracted to crawl spaces under people’s homes because they’re quiet, secluded, dark, dry and out of the wind.
“As far as a bear is concerned, an opening to a house’s crawl space is an invitation to set up a den in an ideal location,” warns Marc Kenyon, CDFW’s human-wildlife conflict program coordinator. “Bears are incredibly strong and can fit into very small places. We’ve seen bears gain access to well-stocked cupboards from under the floorboards.”

I heard a report of a vacationing family frying morning bacon in a Tahoe cabin and a bear coming through the screen of an open window. Hello!Unfortunately, when bears become too bold, they sometimes have to be euthanized for public safety. Finding ways to out-smart the average bear means everyone has a good time and gets out alive.
Ann Bryant, director of the BEAR League, estimates at least 50 or more bears hibernate under homes or cabins in the Lake Tahoe area every winter, and to complicate matters, they sometimes give birth to their young there.
“If a bear gets under your home, there is a chance it could turn into three or four bears in January when the females give birth,” says Bryant. “No one feels right about evicting a mother bear and her tiny cubs out into the cold in the dead of winter.”
She says there are several things residents, visitors, rental property owners and businesses can do to ensure this doesn’t happen:
1) Secure all crawl space doors and openings so bears don’t move in for the winter. Inspect the entire foundation of your home or other buildings, including under decks and porches, for even the smallest opening.
2) Remove all food – including pet food, canned food, teas, spices and bottles of soda— from homes that will not be occupied for the winter. Leave nothing inside your cabin that has a scent or looks edible.
3) Do not place rodent control bait in or under your home as it has proven to be a very powerful bear attractant.
4) Clean your house thoroughly with ammonia-based products before closing it up for the winter.
5) Close and lock all doors and windows even if you’re going to be away from home for only a short period of time. Tahoe bears have learned how to open them without breaking in. This applies not only to vacant properties but to year-round residences and recreational vehicles, as well.
6) Consider electrifying doors and windows, especially on homes without dual-pane glass and homes that will be vacant for a period of time.

For more information, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/bear.html and www.savebears.org.
In the mountains of California — Be Bear Aware, enjoy fall and come back to spend time in the Word Garden. If you’ve had a bear encounter, tell us about it in the comments section.

Butterflies and Out-of-Body Experiences

First Light On Steens Mountain, Great Basin
By David Jensen

Several years ago I participated in the Surprise Valley Writers Forum, a gathering of Western writers in Cedarville, a California frontier town on the doorstep of Nevada’s Great Basin. When the forum ended, some of the local writers suggested I take the “back way” home to Sacramento.

What they didn’t tell me before I headed out is that this vast geological sink is a landscape that will not only turn your head around, it will also take your heart. The wash of the gigantic sand dunes sweeping into the sage brush sea cast a rhythmic spell.

Hurtling down Nevada Highway 447, trusting the link to Interstate 80 near Reno would be waiting for me, that after the being completely alone, I would regain civilization. Directly ahead in the sky as I drove was a cloud with a square hole. I don’t mean square in the loose sense—I mean square like a laser-cut diamond.

Round peg that I am, I steered mesmerized by this square at 80 mph, hitting cattle guards on the open range, physically and spiritually lofting, playing Mozart full blast into the desert’s snug-fitting sage blanket.

The realization seeped in: The emotional and physical load I carry everyday had slipped off, perhaps dropped without my knowing through the rungs of a long-past cattle guard. I was free-floating in the universe, buoyant and elated, at one with the cosmic, at peace with myself.

What I didn’t see as I drove through this magical ecosystem—the Black Rock Desert, the Eastern Sierra Nevada, Northern Paiute land, Pyramid Lake—is what’s happening at ground level.

Didn’t see the way water flows into streams when a deluge strikes in this roughly 200,000 square-mile basin, one-fifth of what we call the West, didn’t see where creeks and rivers flow inland to form seasonal lakes, marshes, salt flats, rather than to the sea like on the western side of the Sierra Nevada where I’m from. I didn’t think.

And, I didn’t see the creatures living in the sage, surviving against the odds.

But, more level heads than mine have walked the Great Basin and noticed that the region’s unique butterfly populations seem to be shrinking and they’ve petitioned the U.S. government to protect them under the Endangered Species Act.

Baking Powder Flat blue butterfly

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just announced that four butterfly subspecies native to the Great Basin of Nevada may warrant federal protection as threatened or endangered species under the ESA.

The Service will now undertake a more thorough status review of the butterflies –the Baking Powder Flat blue butterfly (Euphilotes bernardino minuta), bleached sandhill skipper (Polites sabuleti sinemaculata), Steptoe Valley crescentspot (Phyciodes cocyta arenacolor), and White River Valley skipper (Hesperia uncas grandiosa) – to determine whether they need protection.

“The finding does not mean the Service has decided to list the four butterfly subspecies,” said Jill Ralston, acting state supervisor for the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office. “We are encouraging the public to submit any relevant information about the four butterflies and their habitat to us for consideration in the comprehensive review.”

More information about the Great Basin butterflies can be found online at the Service’s Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office web site at http://www.fws.gov/nevada/.

Although everyone likes butterflies, they’re not often considered when talking about the desert. Images of the four butterfly species of interest in U.S. Fish and Wildlife don’t turn up in a quick Internet search. There’s uncertainty about species and sub-species.

The Great Basin is an unforgiving place to conduct research. But, even in the tropics where butterfly species are abundant, there are no books that comprehensively cover butterfly fauna of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

The non-profit Butterflies of America Foundation has the image of only one of the four Great Basin butterfly species on its comprehensive Web site. But, if you like butterflies and, unlike me, you don’t have your head in the clouds, check out the Web site. There’s lots of other butterfly species to see. And . . . . .

By Riley Campbell

If you go to the Great Basin, be careful. It just might change your life. This week I’m cutting back the butterfly bush in my front yard to get it ready for winter. See you next week in the garden.

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 www.amadorwine.com 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 www.amadorwine.com.
  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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=l8jt-10Zw1I

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 www.GrapesofWrath75.org

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 http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/newmelones/index.html.
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 www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/2/swantours/
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 interpretiveservices@wildlife.ca.gov.
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 http://yubasutterchamber.com/index.php/calendar/swan-festival.

If you’re planning fun, low-cost, unusual outdoor events and activities, send your info to kcamp300@yahoo.com. 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.