November. For those of us who love the outdoors, November is game changer. While October resembled a summer with shorter days, November is unmistakably winter. As I write this, Occidental is due to see rain four days in a row next week and everyone I know is quite happy to see it. The hills are parched and the rains will green things up, end the fire season, and will usher in a season of great air quality and rejuvenation. The Covid vaccines are looking very good right now and I have a feeling that 2021 will be the year of normalization across the boards. There are restaurants in Occidental that have open air tents for outdoor dining as well as the usual take out. How this will hold up over winter is anyones guess. But if you are looking to hike, relax by the wood stove, or soak in the spa, the machinations of our covid response are of little concern to you. Heres to a fantastic November that will segue into a better 2021!
Well then. My last post was in June and here it is almost October and the first day of fall. 2020 has been a challenging year. I think we are all getting fatigued with the masks and social distancing and general disruption of our lives. I find that it is hard to be joyful these days with so much bad news, and yet we must realize that this too shall pass. Lets catch up on some better news! I rebuilt the shed roof on the barn in anticipation of putting a 72 foot long 15kW solar system up there. If you have an electric car you should be able to recharge here pretty soon. Just trying to save the world is all. Hopefully that will go in sometime in the spring. The fire to the immediate north of us is out but the Mendocino fire continues to burn. The air quality has drastically improved such that today it is great and will be great consistently once we get our first rain. Occidental restaurants will have outdoor seating well into October and most everything is open and doing business.Most outdoor activities are essentially unchanged by covid.
Some guests ask me what we are doing for Covid protection. I am following the guidelines from Airbnb on that but I must say we were doing all those things anyway. All appropriate surfaces are cleaned with antiseptic after each stay and all linens are washed. We have always had very high standards for cleanliness. The dishes are all run through the dishwasher with a heat dry cycle. I have replaced the HVAC filter with a number 10 which filters the small stuff and I run the HVAC for four hours prior to any new guest arrival. The house is only 1800 sq ft so that is several air volumes filtered.
Sadly the local music venues have been shut down until they can safely be reopened. Most events have been cancelled but Occidental has a farmers market on Friday about 4 pm through the end of October. Wineries have outdoor tasting. I think most guests are just visiting to chill in the country now. Anyway, natures October is the same as ever! Put some bird seed on the deck railing and see what shows up. I have found that we share the property with the same birds and squirrels. They seem like friends of mine now. Take care you all!
Quite a bit has changed since my February post! As we are all exhaustively aware, the virus pandemic has changed the way we live until we can get a vaccine. Here in West Sonoma County we are tiptoeing into reopening the businesses that can be reopened as our case numbers are doing OK. We are being asked to wear masks when in stores and other public indoor places and I have to say that the people in this area are pretty much 100% compliant. The restaurants are closed except for takeout, but that may be changing here as the summer progresses and there are more outdoor options. There are still ample outdoor activities and some wineries are open for wine tasting. In essence we are in the same boat as most of Northern California and in far better shape than LA.
As far as the house goes, we have always had high standards for cleaning and all appropriate surfaces have always been cleaned after each stay. Please bring a mask for your shopping etc but otherwise do what you would do at home with respect to hand washing etc. It appears that the bug is transmitted via a respiratory exposure and far less likely to be transmitted on surfaces.
This too shall pass! The country spots like this are a great way to decompress from the cities where life has really changed a lot. Lay in the hammock and chill. Have a glass of something on one of the decks. Maybe we can learn something from all of this! 6/14 update: A list of wineries that are currently open for tasting etc. can be found HERE. Enjoy!
Vivian Smith in her book When Wanderers Cease to Roam describes February; "Take the worst day you had in January and repeat it 28 times. That's February." She can be forgiven having written that while living on Long Island Sound. But of course February can't possibly be like that this year because it is a leap year and the much maligned month has 29 days! Aside from that technicality, February in Sonoma County is the unofficial start of spring. The mustards are turning the meadows and orchards and vineyards bright yellow and the pussy willows are leafing out and the wild iris is blooming and the California poppy can be seen dotting the hillsides. Spring is well underway in February stealing some of March's thunder. So in the words of Henry David Thoreau, "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth." And the influence of February ain't bad!
The late fall has been another interesting one in West Sonoma county. I gather the fire fighter community got tired of chasing people out of their houses in the wee hours during the last fire so the entire area was evacuated this time around. The fire was quite far from the house but the winds were concerning and the power had been shut down etc. That is likely all behind us now but I am going to install a propane generator that will power the entire house given that PG&E has grown quite fond of these public safety power shut-offs. So late fall continues to be unpredicatble in these parts!
In other news, the beer and food is still great at Barley and Hops in Occidental. Howards Station Cafe still makes for a great place to eat breakfast in Occidental as well as Willowood Cafe in Graton. The local wineries are going strong and winter is on the way! So get out those winter clothes you have been waiting to wear and see what there is to see!
Well, there was April of course. It came and went and was followed by May, which came and went. Overall it has been a wet spring and a very wet winter which means a fabulous summer is upon us. What better month to usher in summer than June, the harbinger of summer. The summer solstice on June 21st is a bittersweet sort of day.The longest daylight of the year is something to celebrate, but the next day is shorter! Ahh, but at least it is changing. As Thoreau once said, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” Enjoy the change. It's the only permanent thing we have.
January and February were very wet. Really wet. Flooding wet. Questions? Ok, Lets get on with March! I usually say that February is the beginning of spring in West Sonoma County but this year may have been different. The rains have been relentless and the Russian river Flooded Gurneveille and the Barlow in Sebastopol. Of course we locals have seen the area of the Barlow flood many times, some of us having run motor boats down hwy 12 a time or two, and Gurneville floods all the time so it is not very remarkable really. But March promises to be a harbinger of a spring that is big and lush and vibrant! The creeks will run clear and fast and full and the grass will be tall and wavy and the flowers have no excuses! So let's see what is going on in this very springy month.
November sure was great wasn't it? Let's get on with December!
There is no question that December is winter. The deciduous trees have lost their leaves and the hills are greening up from recent rains. The days are getting insultingly short and the nights are long. Frost is not uncommon on December mornings and rain is pretty much assured for several days in December. For those of us that love the great outdoors the short days can be a challenge. For those of you staying at the Redwood House this is not a problem as you are on vacation! Slip into the hot tub on a frosty morning with a cup of Italian roast coffee and listen to the sound of silence. Put on a jacket and go for a hike or a rain jacket if rain is likely. Head into Occidental for breakfast, Graton for Lunch, Occidental for dinner and drive "the loop" in between. You just can't go wrong here in the winter. Let's see what's going on!
The Barlow: Here is the event calendar for the Barlow in Sebastopol.
Jenner Headlands Hike: Check this out! If the weather is clear this hike offers an epic view of the Sonoma coastline. Stop and get a cup of coffee at Duncans Mills on the way!
Kortum Trail: If the weather is decent consider a hike along this ocean bluff trail. You can access this trail as part of the loop drive in my things to do tab. Bring a jacket!
Wild Flour Bread Freestone: As I have always said, any excuse to drive to Freestone is a good one. Go to Wild Flour bakery in the morning. Get some fresh bread etc. Have a cup of coffee and check out their gardem which is active throughout winter. I would drive there via Bohemian Highway out of Occidental them come back by turning left on Bodega Highway heading uphill to Joy road back to Occidental road.
Grove of Old Trees: Look at my things to do tab and check this out. If its raining all the better. Very peaceful!
The tows of Occidental and Graton are great places to poke around this time of year. Have fun! J
October is the month that ushers in winter. The early weeks of October are typically beautiful with warm weather and few crowds. Usually by the end of the month we have had some rain and the transition from late summer to what looks like winter can happen in one day. After the first rains the forests smell like wet bay leaves and you can almost watch the grass begin to grow. Great time to enjoy the hot tub in the chilly evenings and put on those fall clothes you have been waiting to wear. Lets see what's going on remembering that the best events are those that are not published.
Hopmonk Tavern Sebastopol: Here is the music line up.
Jenner Headlands: You may consider checking this area out. It is about a 45 minute drive from the house but it is a beautiful piece of property overlooking the coast.
Red Hill: This is a great hike overlooking the ocean, Willow Creek valley and looking out over Jenner Headlands. If you would like to know how to get there just let me know. It's about 35 minutes from the house and incorporates my loop drive mentioned on my "things to do" tab.
Grove of Old Trees: Great time of year to take a walk through some big redwoods not far from the house!
On the first of August the band of summer is still playing and the party looks like it will never end! But by the middle of August the band is 2/3 of the way through its set and fall is in the air. The poison oak is turning red, the mornings are cooler and the days are shorter. The bees in the hives are ramping down their numbers in preparation for winter. But not to worry! Winter doesn't arrive until that magical day in October when you have a big bike ride planned and the rains begin to fall. Even then there are nice days until the end of October when the winds blow and the rain falls and....well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I will search for interesting happenings in the area, keeping in mind that the best things in life are free. Like Pascal once observed humanities problem is that people can't sit in a room alone. I agree. You have to at least have a glass of wine!