Saturday, September 17, 2016

California July 2016 Family and Farm Sacramento Delta and the Bay Area

When we'd first contacted Don's cousin Ginny about seeing them in SoCal she had invited us to the family farm way up in the Sacramento Delta that weekend.  Since we were still down in San Diego though, we arranged to see them for dinner when we were at Agua Dulce Winery.  During dinner we found that they would be back up at the farm when we were up north at the beginning of July so the invitation was extended again as well as "permission" to stay some extra days after they left.

In between their invitation and our going there I called a distant cousin of both Don and Ginny's and asked if we could get together.  They invited us to visit them in Lafayette and then we decided that we could also get together for lunch up in Isleton.  When I told Ginny the invitation was extended for them to spend the night so we were looking forward very much to the visit.

We left the East Hills early in the morning of Don's 67th birthday, and drove up I-5 to Isleton a small town on the banks of the Sacramento River.  The farm is leased out to a farmer who grows cherries and several varieties of pears but the family has a house there.  Ginny and her husband would be meeting us later since they had a much longer drive from LA but we were able to follow her directions and found a perfect spot under the willow tree next to the house.  We were positioned so that the sun hit the solar panels all day long but the tree shaded us below.  Our view was of the pear orchards on the left and the cherries on the right. We could watch the sun and moon rise and set each day. The spot alone made the visit memorable.

Red Flame Grapes



Morning Glory


Seckel pears

Starrs Red Crimson pear





Sunrise on the only cloudy-ish day-the clouds cleared by midday

A pear tree graft.  It takes many fewer years to grow a tree that produces fruit by grafting new ones to established stumps.  The trees that were grafted 2 years ago were already producing pears.


Soon after we arrived we got a call from Ginny saying they had hit a log that had fallen into the highway and were turnng back to get their other car and would be up the next day.  Luckily their car was only slightly damage and they were not hurt at all!

This is not Ginny's car after the accident but an old Jeep that has seen better days...especially that tire!!!
The next day dawned beautifully and we walked to the river while awaiting the arrival of our hosts.  As soon as they got there and unloaded all the supplies, opened the house and windows to air it, we all piled into the back of the small tractor wagon and rode through the orchard to cull the remnants of the Starr Crimson pears which had been picked the week before.  The cherries were long gone, although Ginny and I found several dried ones which were delicious.  They also have a few fruit trees in their yard and we picked perfectly ripe plums and nectarines for our enjoyment of the next days.  After the tour of the orchard we went down to the dock on the river and watched the late afternoon sun light up the water and sky. Then it was time for a delicious dinner at a local eatery, Guisti's, and then early to bed for all of us.

Sunrise at the barn
Sunday dawned another beautiful day and Phoenix and I took a stroll to the barn to see if we could find the barn owl that Eric had told us about.  There he was perched high in the rafters cocking an eye to see what were these new sounds and smells (but when I went down later to get a portrait of him he was gone.)  The sun had just come up when we walked and I reflected once again on what a beautiful time of day it is with the light and the birds starting their days and the soft sweet air.   Ginny offered me the use of their washing machine which I eagerly accepted but then it "died" on the second load.  I felt awful, thinking I'd killed the machine but they assured us it was not a problem.  (Update: it turned out to be a minor part which Eric and their son Patrick figured out from a YouTube video which they replaced and the machine is working again.) Britt and Mike arrived before lunch which they had made so we all partook of the deliciousness and then went on another tour of the orchard to gather more unpicked pears.  As yet unripe, we only had to leave them for a few days before they ripened into delicious treats.  But our haul was huge and Ginny would be taking many home to make more of her unbelievably delicious pear brandy. We hung out for the afternoon trading family stories and then we all sat down to steak.  Decadent, juicy and delicious we were all well sated but had room for Ginny's special cheesecakes (no gluten, no sugar and DELICIOUS) and pear brandy. As we sat talking I marveled at how wonderful it was to have known about these cousins for years and finally to meet them and to have the chance to spend time with Ginny and Eric whom we'd seen so seldom since we lived on opposite coasts.  The cousins-Ginny and her siblings and Don and his had virtually grown up together, in adjoining towns in NJ and weekends on the banks of the Hudson at their adjoining properties until Ginny's family moved to FL.  We'd met Britt and Mike's son, John, several years ago when he worked at the American Museum of Natural History and it was great to finally meet Britt with whom I had corresponded for years.  John now lives in Singapore with his wife and 2 sons.

The next day was the 4th of July but since Eric and Ginny had a long drive and work on Tuesday we bid adieu to our hosts and visitors and promised to enjoy ourselves for the next week+ which we'd have to ourselves in this beautiful place.  We were heading to Yosemite on the 10th but Ginny invited us back after that for the gathering of her brood and their progeny for the joint birthday celebration of several of them.  Britt and Mike invited us to join them later in the week for a tour of some of their favorite sites in the Bay Area.

We had some shopping to do and Don needed a new bike so we headed to Antioch one day to get it and then on Wednesday drove to Lafayette to meet Britt and Mike.  From there we went to the spectacular Rosie the Riveter/ WWII National Historic Park in Richmond.  Housed next to the Ford Assembly Building this is one of the reasons I so support the National Park Service.  The movie we watched was excellent although Mike, with a bad knee, watched another which, after he described it, we were sorry to have missed.  But, our time was spent well touring the many exhibits and learning about the work of the women during this time.  In a day when women rarely worked jobs that were "for men" the need for workers to build ships for the war led to the hiring of women and people of color. The women soon gained a reputation for excellent work and the 4 Kaiser shipyards produced many of the warships used during the war.  But, during this time Kaiser also developed a healthcare system to serve the workers and build a hospital and first aid station.  He also started a program to provide child care to the families of workers which is the basis for child care programs to this day.  With the influx of workers housing was in short supply so the Richmond Housing authority was started and built Atchison Village, which in those days was public but is now privately owned cooperative housing. We could have spent a day there touring the shipyard, visiting the SS Red Oak Victory and watching all the films but it was really, really cold and we wanted to get to Sausalito.  The one sad aspect of our visit was learning the sad news about one of the rangers whom Britt has come to know through her visits.  Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest NPS Ranger at 94 and just a week before had been the victim of a home break-in in which she was robbed and beaten.  She survived and there was a huge card for all of us to sign and I'm happy to report that 2 weeks after we visited she returned to work.

One of the many exhibits that evoked the times they portrayed

View of San Francisco (right) and Oakland (left) with the Oakland Bay Bridge

The Ford Assembly Plant

Looking across at the shipyard

 From The Museum we headed to Sausalito, a place I remembered with the best memories.  The boats-of all types and many houseboats among them, float alongside the docks, the houses are perched precariously on the hills and the fog, as it often does, was gliding slowly back up as the sun beamed.  We had a delicious brunch and then walked on the docks to see a boat that was very like theirs which was being worked on.  From there we went to see the fascinating Bay Model.

The Bay Model was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1957 in response to the Reber Plan.  In the 1940s, John Reber, an actor, producer and school teacher proposed and designed a project he believed would provide drinking water to the Bay Area residents.  It involved building 2 dams and to create two lakes, and although there was support (the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed the plan) the Army COE felt more investigation was warranted.  A good thing since it probably would have been a tragedy.  Their response was to build a hydraulic scale model of the entire bay area, including the Sacramento Delta.  All the features that affect the waters coming in and out of the bay are incorporated and the tides are set in real time.  It is fascinating and HUGE and helped prove that the Reber Plan would not have worked in the Bay's favor.  The Model Museum also held exhibits about another of the WWII shipbuilding companies and wonderful murals of all the natural and man made features of the Bay Area.

Our tour then continued with a ride up to San Rafael, past San Quentin and back over the bay to their oasis in Lafayette where we spent the evening enjoying pizza and looking at old family photos (and I also got to use the washing machine.)

Our time at the Farm was coming to an end when one day as we stood talking to the farmer who leases the land he got a phone call.  The crew had been burning the orchard trash and the fire had leapt from the well cleared area into the wild raspberry bushes and a fire had started.  The fire department arrived minutes later and by the time I rode down on my bike they had extinguished it and all was well.  It was a reminder how easily fires start in this region which is not anywhere as close to dry as most of what we traveled through in this drought stricken state.

On July 10th we packed up and headed east to Yosemite National Park.

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