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California pumpkin patches are open for business

Bishop Pumpkin Farm Credit Are You That WomanBishop's Pumpkin Farm - Wheatland:  Plan your visit carefully. This an all-day affair. Three-acre corn maze, u-pick pumpkins; petting zoo, train rides, food, hayrides, carousel, pony rides, sunflower labyrinth, pie, fudge, and more! These great pumpkins lives on Pumpkin Lane. 
(530) 633-2568

Historic Hawes Farm - Anderson:  Long before the corn maze was even dreamed about, Hawes Farms was growing pumpkins. They have shipped these little round orange balls all over California from Redding to San Diego, from Eureka to San Luis Obispo! They raise morethan 30 varieties, always searching for the best characteristics. Bring your friends and family to the 10-acre corn maze and GET LOST together!!! Two miles of trails!
(530) 365-8488 • Toll Free: (800) 54 HAWES

Earthbound Organic Farm - Carmel Valley:  Corn Crazy marks the opening of Carmel Valley’s only organic corn maze. In October, the Farm Stand transforms into a pumpkin-filled playground for Harvest Festival, their biggest celebration of the year. (831) 625-6219

Moore's Pumpkin Patch - Castro Valley: Children can use our provided "Pumpkin Patch Travelers" otherwise known as red wagons to transport their "perfect pumpkins". Then on to the carnival rides you'll see the popular "Super Slide" and various children's rides. (510) 886-6015

 The Rest of the California Pumpkin Patch Story.... 

Bird Watcher Paradise -Sandhill Cranes Visit Sacramento River Delta

Day Trip to Woodbridge Ecological Reserve by Barbara L. Steinberg

Sunset at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L SteinbergSaturday was winding down. A perfect December day in the Sacramento Valley and along the Sacramento River Delta (or California Delta depending who you ask). Dry weather brings balmy days and very cold nights. It also means clear skies and stunning sunsets for birders who venture to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Phil & Marilyn Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve during the winter bird migration. A major stop along the Pacific Flyway, it's especially popular with the B-52s of birds, the sandhill cranes. Their annual visitation attracts birdwatching enthusiasts from around the region and world. And reason to celebrate the 20th annual Sandhill Crane Festival in nearby Lodi, California. 

Thousands of sandhill cranes along with similar numbers of geese, swans, Sandhill cranes 2 Woodbridge Ecological Reserve Credit Barbara L Steinberg
ducks, and various shorebirds spend fall and winter months in flooded farm fields along Woodbridge Road off Interstate 5. Each day at sundown -- yes, you can set your clock -- the spectacle begins. And then there are those rare days where sunsets are matched by a full-moon rise. The sounds and sights are breathtaking. In the fading light, the cranes appear ghostly in the shallow water. They will spend the night feeding, resting and courting. Their frenzied dance -- jumping and wings spread -- is part of the display.

Self-guided visitations occur daily. The reserve, property of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, also has docent-led tours.These tours fill-up fast, so book ahead.

But whatever you do, don't miss this annual event -- migration and festival. I've been many times -- the wow factor is always the same. This video from 2011 tells the whole story. If you're really dedicated, morning visits can net you some spectacular views. Thank you to James D. Simon for this incredible YouTube video


California Rambling: Worth of Water: The Problem by John Poimiroo

This is the first in a series on the Sierra Nevada watershed which originally appeared in the Mountain Democrat, California's oldest newspaper, established in 1851. Two additional articles explore solutions and describe benefits for El Dorado County.

 “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”
-- Thomas Fuller, 1732

California’s well is drying up. After four years of drought, the Sierra Nevada watershed has been damaged by forest fires and bark beetle infestations (Beetles 101, Property Owners Take Note, Dawn Hodson, Mountain Democrat, June 24, 2016). And, if more isn’t done to restore the Sierra Nevada watershed soon, all Californians will truly know the worth of water.

California’s Sierra Nevada watershed provides over two-thirds of the water used by Californians and irrigates some 750,000 acres of farml Rim Fire North Fork of the Tuolumne River Creidt Sierra Nevada Conservancyand. It is essential to our populace, economy and way of life.

Healthy watersheds do more than supply water. They support healthy forests, meadows, rivers, streams, lakes and ecosystems. They nourish plant and animal life, collect and filter water, store carbon (which helps regulate climate and improve air quality). And, the Sierra Nevada watershed is an essential source of forest products, recreation and tourism.

Considering how vital the Sierra Nevada watershed is to California, one would think the State would be doing all it can to maintain the watershed and restore it, but that isn’t happening.

In 2014, California voters approved $7.5 billion in general obligation bonds (Proposition 1) to increase water storage, water quality, flood protection and watershed protection and restoration. In comparison, they have approved $64 to $98 billion for a bullet train that will, once it is completed, serve a small fraction of those who depend upon the Sierra Nevada watershed.

Where will we go on that train, if there’s no water at the other end of the line?

Considering the importance of a clean and abundant water supply for a growing population, industry and agriculture, the restoration of the Sierra Nevada watershed should be a priority, though it doesn’t appear to be.

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC), a state agency, states, “Right now, the Sierra Nevada region is at a critical point. A century of fire suppression, a shortage of restoration efforts, and years of drought have placed Sierra forests, lakes, meadows and streams at incredible risk.”

Last year alone, more than 29 million trees in California died as a result of drought, insects and disease, up from 3.3 million the previous year. Eighty percent of those trees were in the Sierra Nevada, and a dead tree does little to prevent erosion.

Sierra Nevada Conservancy Wildfires are becoming larger and more severe, as well. SNC reports that between 1984 and 2010, the number of wildfire acres that burned at high intensity rose by 50%. The 2013 Rim and 2014 King fires continued that trend with about half of the acreage burning at high intensity.

These high-intensity burn areas experience runoff and erosion rates five to ten times greater than low or moderate-intensity burn areas, resulting in sediment that degrades water quality, damages hydro-power infrastructure, fills reservoirs, prevents fish eggs from hatching and reduces storage capacity.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) estimated following the King fire that during a five-year storm event, the equivalent of 226,000 dump trucks full of sediment can be expected to enter the Rubicon River watershed.

Similarly, Pine Flat Reservoir, downstream from the 2015 Rough fire, is vulnerable. SNC predicts that should a ten-year storm event occur, upwards of 2,000-acre-feet of sediment could get deposited in the lake, displacing enough water to supply 2,000 families for a year.

Those trees are not just essential to preventing sediment from being deposited in the watershed, but also to cleaning the air by absorbing carbon dioxide. Almost half of the carbon absorbed by California’s forests is stored by Sierra Nevada forests, enough to offset the annual emissions of more than 1,000 coal-fired power plants.

Sierra Nevada meadows are as threatened as are reservoirs; they’re important to capturing snow-melt and releasing it slowly through dry months. Meadows also filter sediment and pollutants, contributing to higher quality drinking water. However, many Sierra meadows have become degraded by wildfires and dead forests, diminishing their capacity to filter and store water.

The USFS regional forester estimated in 2011 that 500,000 acres need to be restored each year to improve forest health and watershed reliability.  However, that’s two to three times greater than what’s being restored today.

Funding has been the primary barrier to increasing the pace and scale of restoration across the Sierra, though other challenges exist. Among them, the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program lists: improving coordination between federal, state and local agencies, adjusting air quality regulations to allow controlled burns that help thin forests susceptible to holocaustic wildfires, dedicating funds to restoration so that they are not used for other purposes, faster processing of environmental assessments, and establishing mills and plants necessary to process the timber and create new profitable and sustainable markets and uses for it.

What Thomas Fuller wrote 284 years ago, has never been truer. Let’s not wait till the well is dry to know the worth of water. 

California Rambling: Worth of Water: The Solutions by John Poimiroo

California Rambling: Worth of Water: The Benefits by John Poimiroo


As originally published in the Mountain Democrat by John Poimiroo

Mtn Demo logo
Logo watershed

Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program
Restoring California’s primary watershed



Bites on Broadway Southeast Comfort in Skagway Alaska


Rating: Star*Star*Star*Star*Star*

Southeast Alaska is giving the Deep South a run for its culinary money and gives southern cooking a whole new meaning.  Two guys from Mississippi have graced Skagway’s main street – Broadway -- with comfort foods. I should know, my Virginia southern roots told me so. I grew up eating grits and mustard greens with vinegar.

Wander past Broadway’s "we serve Starbucks" crowd and find yourself at Bites on Broadway. Lucky me, to find them just across the road from my lodging at Historic Skagway Inn. In the morning, I could peek out to see the lights were on and wander across the street for fresh-brewed coffee before the sunrise. That's saying something when it's July in Alaska. The owners, Nils and Skipper, learned the fine art of southern cooking Bites on Broadway Cheese biscuit with sweet potato butter Credit Are You That Womanfrom their mothers -- and they were excellent students. It was the plain cake doughnut that caught my eye on the first visit. And while munching away, spotted the cheese biscuit and something about sweet potato butter (instead of apple). OMG! Not ashamed to say I wolfed this down and still dreaming of that delightful moment. Hey, can I try a little of the Alaskan Salmon Chowder? Another taste bud celebration.

There weren't enough days or hours to eat everything on the menu. Clearly the locals have embraced this breakfast and lunch destination. So did I, more than once! Still dreaming about this down south in Northern California, y'all!


Alaska's Gateway City

Bites on Broadway Sweet Potato Butter Credit Are You That WomanShop online for delicious sweet potato butter and more!

Morro Bay Nature Sublime

 Morro Bay is a Sensory Wonderland By Barbara L. Steinberg

Inhale. Watch the sun set behind Morro Rock, bark at sea lions, call to a night heron, and walk in silence Morro Bay 2012 Credit Barbara L Steinberg5beside a forest of pygmy oaks.  At every turn, open spaces and environmentally sensitive biomes of extraordinary splendor await.  Miles and miles of nature preserves, state parks, state beaches, and magical places with names like The Elfin Forest elevate Morro Bay’s allure.  From a waterfront perch at the Inn at Morro Bay, only one question emerges, “What next?” Mother Nature worked overtime to create this canvas.  It deserves all your attention.

Head for Montaña de Oro State Park toward shoreline and estuary views.  In just a few miles, the road narrows; the “real” world drops away. Some days are sunny. Today, fog drapes the hillsides but without diminishing the heightened anticipation to reach Sandspit Beach – a four-mile “ecologically diverse” sand dune area separating Morro Bay from the Pacific Ocean.

Montana de Oro State Park Lupine Credit Barbara L SteinbergOne vehicle in the parking lot alludes to a park ranger, nowhere to be seen.  Out of your own four-wheeler, the world is quiet.  You zigzag along with the boardwalk, along sensitive dunes dotted with sand verbena and lupine.  A slight rise in the dune and – suddenly – stillness to crashing waves!  A view that thrills you to the bone.

Breathe. One seriously long, deep breath of the fog, the mist, the ocean air.

See. Open your eyes, wide! Really, really wide to an abundance of sand, shore birds, ocean debris, wildflowers, pounding surf. Incredibly, you are the sole inhabitant on this expanse of beach inside Montaña de Oro State Park.  Imagine the coastal Chumash who once called this home.

Montana de Oro State Park 2012 Credit Barbara L. Steinberg12Step. Follow the footprints – some four-footed – the comings and goings of previous visitors. The tide rushes up and laps at your feet, washing away remnants of your passing and those before you.

Gaze. Scan for signs of life. A troop of curlews hurries in and out of the surf chasing an elusive breakfast.  A band of brown pelicans rises and falls with the light as if on some unseen carnival ride. Bashful snowy plovers sneak – left, right, left right – over dunes to  protected nesting ground.  A gang of turkey vultures nibble on the carcass of a dolphin, its mouth agape in a petrified smile. Heartbreaking, but it is the nature of things and now part of this memory.

Sun and fog debate which will prevail over today’s weather. Fog appears to be winning.  Though a distance away, you linger in hopes that Morro Rock will reappear through the mist. Not to be on this adventure. After a mile on the spit, it’s time to turn back.

A ghostly surfer slips the top of a wave, a solitary figure, as you depart. Exhale.

Yuba Sutter Harvest Dinner magically delicious

Rating:  Star*Star*Star*Star*Star*

First Yuba-Sutter Harvest Dinner exceeded all expectations!

There's something so special about dining outdoors, especially in early autumn when California evenings are warm and dry with a promise of cooler days ahead. On October 8th, more than 100 friends of Visit Yuba-Sutter gathered to IMG_0471celebrate a bountiful harvest and feast. We dined and wined enjoying all the best of the region.

Late afternoon on Plumas Street in Yuba City, glasses of chilled champagne with local pomegranate syrup garnished with rings of Asian apple pear greeted us. Small bites featured balsamic, prune, goat cheese, arugula and walnut bruschetta and smoked porkloin skewers with prune-chipotle glaze. Yes, those dried plums have grown-up and are delish!

Mustard crusted organic rack of lamb portabella mushroom risotto, golden kiwi demi glaze and roasted butternut squash prepared by Chef Keith Colusa Casino Wintun Dinner House paired with 2014 Estate Cabernet from Cordi WineryAfter an hour of lighthearted cheer, we made our way to alfresco tables adorned in autumn finery and flanked by sunlit sycamores. Once seated, we got down to the serious business of dinner! Between pleasantries and laughter, four incredible courses and wines were served and consumed. Many oohs and aahs. Smiles. OMGs! Selfies and cell phone food photos followed. 

Yuba-Sutter chefs, purveyors, farmers, vintners and organizers outdid themselves. The evening was over far too soon with everyone agreeing the intimacy, elegance and warmth of the Harvest Dinner was more than we ever imagined. The presentations and creativity -- well, you wish you were there! As flower arrangements and place settings were cleared, we all asked, "What's the date for next year?" I hope I'm on that invite list!

The Menu Credit Are YouThat Woman

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