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Sacramento day-trips to regional secret gardens

Gardens grow everything from edibles and flowers to botanical history and strange works of art. Use leisure time to explore nearby secret gardens – conventional and not. Slow down. Enjoy the landscapes. Getting there is half the fun. To unearth these secrets use GPS, Google Maps, road maps, and age-old technology of calling ahead for directions.

Go Discover! Lotus Valley Nursery & Gardens
Petersen Lane, Lotus, CA 

Lotus Valley Nursery & Garden Credit Barbara L Steinberg3A quick retreat up Highway 50 east to Ponderosa Road, left across the highway and right on North Shingle. Wind your way and stay left at the ‘Y’ onto Lotus Road, left at the Bassi Road stop sign and stay straight onto Petersen Lane. Views of the American River are on your right before turning into Lotus Valley Nursery & Gardens’ secreted entrance.

Owners, Joe and Bob, turned a three-acre old homestead into a heaven of ornamental grasses and demonstration gardens. They invite you to come and discover. Bob’s handcrafted sculptures and water features are cleverly displayed in the “Tin Room Gallery” and throughout the garden. You can spend quiet hours strolling, picnicking, and contemplating. A variety of serene sitting areas beckon. Clearly, they want you to stay.  Plenty of other nearby distractions keep you close, including local wineries. Open Wed-Sun 9am to 5pm through November. Open in the winter by appointment. Lotus Valley is magical.

Continue down Lotus Road to Highway 49 north to the Dave Moore Nature Area along the south fork of the American River; half the trails are wheelchair accessible. If you skipped the picnic, there are plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner options at Lotus and Coloma. You can loop back to Sacramento along Highway 49 to Interstate 80 – enjoy the scenic route which is about 100 miles round-trip.

Go Explore! Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture
Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture Credit Barbara L Steinberg30
South Burson Road, Valley Springs, CA

Take Highway 99 south to Highway 26 east towards Valley Springs. Ready yourself for scenic vistas. Two-lane country roads framed by orchards, vineyards, and small towns are visually soothing. On 52 acres, owners Denise and Kresimir are cultivating art and relationships along groomed trails and undulating hillsides. The winding road delivers sculptures, hospitality, wine tasting, spring wildflowers, and beautiful views. Ranch hikes are an adventure in search of sometimes elusive art installations and views of Calaveras County foothills from the “Top of the World.” Call ahead for an appointment and directions.

If you still have time on your return, Lodi wineries are plentiful and freeway-close.

Go Seek! Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road & South Park Drive, Berkeley, CA

It’s a straight shot down Interstate 80 to urbane and sometimes eccentric Berkeley. Day-trippers overlook that East Bay Regional Park District protects
secret gardens and thousands of acres of open space in the Berkeley hills. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a charming destination and less than 90 miles from downtown Sacramento. Ten acres of California native plants are organized by geographic regions of the state.  The garden was established by James Roof in the 1940s and contains rare and endangered species such as Presidio Manzanita and Small-leaved Rose. Regional Parks Botanic Garden Credit Barbara L Steinberg3Built along meandering trails and bridges the garden feels primordial. Grassy areas are perfect for running; children are welcome to do so.


The annual April spring plant sale is a rare opportunity to purchase plants propagated from the Garden’s collection. Many of these California native plants are available nowhere else.  All proceeds benefit the Garden. Free public tours are held most rain-free weekends and group tours are available by special arrangement.

Just a few miles away, the stunning University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is 34 acres of formal gardens and glasshouses, with more than 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world.

Go Sac! Go Yol! Go Sol! Gardens Galore
Gardens at Sacramento Old City Cemetery Credit Anita Clevenger3Sacramento gardens are many. Don’t be surprised, but none more special than those at the Old City Cemetery! The 3-acre Historic Rose Garden gives life to nearly 500 antique and old garden roses many found in abandoned sites, homesteads, cemeteries, and roadsides throughout northern California. The aroma is heavenly.  Hamilton Square, named after Alexander Hamilton’s youngest son, contains perennials from all five Mediterranean climates of the world.  A California Native Plant Society has created a garden among the headstones. It’s phenomenal in the springtime.

Garden lovers rejoice! The options are many and close-by. In adjacent Yolo County, the 1.5-acre UC Davis Good Life Garden at the Mondavi Center Institute for Wine and Food Science is an edible and ornamental Fairfield Suisun Valley Glashoff Sculpture Credit Are You That Womanlandscape. Learn new gardening concepts and eat healthy, too!

Cross one more county border into Solano. A well-kept secret, Suisun Valley hides the fantastical Phillip Glashoff Sculpture Garden. Williams Road, a country lane off Suisun Valley Road, does not easily give up this secret. Wander the driveway and no farther. Dozens of sculptures along the way and in the field will leave you wide-eyed.  Easier to spot is another small collection on Rockville Road.

 

Are You That Woman

Elk Grove Subaru

If my Subaru can't get me there, that's a good reason not to go!


Morning meditation

The best part of the day. Morning.

Buddha in the garden Credit Are You That WomanAs I take clothes from the line, the moment of simplicity washes over me. Birds sing from hedges. A cool breeze. A plane buzzes overhead. In the distance, even the droning traffic is blissful. Hear the leaves rustle softly. Later in the day, afternoon heat will silence their sweet voices. Bees are humming around blossoms. Parenting scrub jays search for morsels to feed their screeching brood. Pestering cats must be shooed and clapped away. I've already blessed the garden with a morning shower, discovered the first grapes and a smiling Buddha drenched in sunlight.

These peaceful interludes are inspiration. Tapping deep into my soul and pushing me Garden grapes Credit Are You That Womanto write. Sit quiet in this garden temple. Sip tea and watch morning unfold. The raucous mockingbird dances above the power pole. One small voice, a hummingbird. I quickly turn my head to see. To hear. The pack of bees is growing. Blue flowered branches bounce under their persistent explorations. A honey bee wards off a much larger carpenter bee. A thirsty scrub jay sips from the water bowl.

A momentary rest, I lift my head from the notebook. Endlessly entertained, that crazy mockingbird calls and leaps. I stretch. My wayward hand elicits gentle notes from the wind chimes.

IMAG4044Each day, rising almost with the sun, I beg myself to stay nestled in sleep. But morning waits! Zzyzx is already catnapping. Nothing about her 17 years, it's #whatcatsdo! I nuzzle her, scratch under her chin and disturb her daily sabbatical. All parts of this hallowed respite. Then she finds me as I end this post as it began -- meditating on my garden view.

 

Zzyzx napping Credit Are You That Woman


Fairfield California Is All About Discovery

What You Don't Know About Fairfield California Will Surprise You

Jelly Belly Tour Credit Are You That WomanA mention of Fairfield, California brings the usual responses, “Oh! That’s where the Jelly Belly factory is!” or, “Sure, the Budweiser plant is over there, right?” Well it’s true! Fairfield is home to the very famous Jelly Belly candy factory, as well as Anheuser-Busch brewing. Proud of these iconic attractions, Fairfield is so much more. Open your eyes and embrace your explorer spirit. You’ll find that Fairfield has enough surprises to fill an overnight or long-weekend escape.

Fairfield, California includes and is surrounded by some of northern California’s most beautiful landscapes.  Well situatedFairfield Suisun Valley Blue Victorian Spring Credit Barbara Steinberg 2009, Fairfield is located within the California Coastal Range, centered directly north of Suisun Bay, northeast of San Pablo Bay, east of the Sacramento Valley, and is nearly equidistant from Sacramento and San Francisco. It is approximately 40 miles/64km from both San Francisco and Sacramento, approximately 30 miles/48km from Oakland, and less than 10 miles/16km from the Napa Valley.

Freeway close and urban in nature, many of Fairfield’s greatest attributes embrace its rural and agricultural roots. Nearby shopping, lodging, restaurants, and nightlife transcend the destination’s rural nature.  The region’s Coastal Ranges and canyons create recreational abundance: championship golf, orchards and farms, and scenic back roads. Agricultural riches in the Suisun Valley are protected to south by the Coast Range bordering the Napa Valley, the Vaca Mountains and Mt. George Range to the west, and Suisun Bay to the south.

Fairfield Big Blue Frog Prince Credit Barbara Steinberg 2009Many familiar chain hotels are located just off Interstate 80, making Fairfield a convenient overnight and weekend getaway. Fairfield’s Westfield Solano Mall is the largest indoor shopping mall in Solano County, hosting more than one million square feet of retail space including a variety of popular restaurants and clothing boutiques. Just across the way, the 140,000-square-foot Gateway Courtyard Shopping Center rounds out the local retail scene including a popular northern California micro-brewery Blue Frog Brewing Company.  Joining the local craft brew scene, Heretic Brewing is worth discovering.  Tucked away in an industrial park off Clay Bank Road -- seek and ye shall find! The North and West Texas Street business districts for a number of one-of-a-kind shops, and where special events occur annually. 

In 2004, the Fairfield Hotel Association established a Business Improvement District (BID) to increase the awareness of the area’s many attractions and diversions, and encourage visitors to stay overnight.

Read more about the history, recreation, and beauty of Fairfield California....


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It's all about the bats in the Yolo Basin

Bat flyout Credit Are You That WomanMost people run screaming in terror at the site or thought of a bat. Visions of Vincent Price and Count Dracula horror films quickly come to mind. The movies and stories of old have convinced us that bats -- all bats -- are blood-sucking vermin. Nothing could be further from the truth. A recent visit to the Yolo Basin Foundation chased away any fears and squelched the myths and lore of vampire-ish behavior.

Every summer, the Yolo Basin Foundation and NorCalBats, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California, conduct educational seminars about local bat colonies, their ecological importance, and efforts to conserve California bats. Specifically, Mexican free-tailed bats in   the Sacramento region.

Bats are not flying rodents. The truth is, bats are more like humans then you probably realize or care to know. Bats are mammals. They are warm-blooded and have fur. Bat babies are live births and they drink milk. Most bats only have one baby at a time, though occasionally they have multiple births. Sound familiar?

The majority of bats eat bugs. Some eat fruit. And of the 1,100 species worldwide, only THREE species actually "drink" blood! Of those, two species drink the blood of birds and one actually drinks the blood of mammals -- though mostly cattle and not that of beautiful young maidens. Now don't get too nervous. Unless you're traveling to Central or South America, you aren't likely to encounter any of these three blood-hungry creatures.

Another myth eliminated on this trip: Bats are not blind! In fact, they see in black and white and use echolocation to find their prey in the dark. It's a remarkable navigation system. What I'd really like to know is how someone figured out the B/W thing!

The bat presentation was fascinating and lasted about an hour. But then the big excitement and the thing we were all waiting for: the bats! Public tours can be packed and usually sell out, but we were a small group of maybe 7 or 8 being guided by Corky Quirk who is a lover of bats and expert in the field. We piled into a van and bumped along the dirt roads into the Yolo Basin, a flood plain between Davis and Sacramento. The land is farmed during the dry months and flooded in the rainy season. Bodies of water (some natural and some manmade) attract a bevy of wildlife year-round. During drier months, you can actually drive into the basin but for most people it's viewed from Interstate 80/The Yolo Causeway which crosses the basin for almost three miles between Sacramento and Yolo counties.

Little did they know that constructing the "Causeway" created the most perfect of bat habitats in the form of expansion joints under the bridge. How perfect? Well, how about 200,000 - 250,000 bats perfect! This is actually a maternal colony. Females only! (The guys hang-out in another location. Hmmm, not such a bad idea!) When the females give birth in early July the colony will more than double. I don't know about you, but that's a lot a bats!

Bat flyout and tours kid friendly Credit Are You That WomanAlong about sundown we traveled approximately three miles into the Basin to the portion of the bridge where the bats colonize. Along the way we saw great egrets, snowy egrets, and night heron. Avocets tip-toed through shallow rice paddies and great blue heron strutted slowly, gracefully across the field. The dots of red on black bird shoulders bounced and bobbed among the tule and rushes. And the flash of one lone yellow-headed black bird elicited a gasp from me. A clutch of baby ducks skittered away as we passed and three young Canada geese ran comically down the road in search of their parents.

We arrived at our destination and waited for the big moment…the bat “fly out!” It comes just around sundown and on this particular evening, somewhere around 8:35 p.m. And just as promised and on cue tens of thousands of female bats poured – in a steady stream – out from under the bridge. Strangely there is one exit point. They fly out over one particular tree. Up into the sky and then begin to disperse into smaller groups, heading off for an evening of bug gorging. There’s one major exodus followed by several smaller groups.

It was out of this world! And just another in a long list of California ’s most amazing natural wonders.

For more information on the Bat Talk & Walk, visit the Yolo Basin Foundation website: www.YoloBasin.org and NorCalBats at www.NorCalBats.org.

NorCalBats is funded through donations and presentations. No money is received from California Department of Fish & Widllife, U.S. Department of Agriculture, any state or federal agency, or major corporation. Tours are $12 each; children 15 and under are free.