Time sure flies! Let's catch up on the state of west Sonoma County! The restaurant businesses are largely back to normal on weekends. Weekdays in Occidental are still limited as the Union Hotel and Negris are open for dinner Fri-Sun. Howards station, my favorite breakfast spot is open all week. The farmers market on Fridays is back in business but the music venues like the Occidental Community Center concerts have not reopened. The wine tasting business is in full swing for sure. The great outdoors is fairing well even though it was a dry winter. So far this summer we have had excellent air quality as there have not been any major fires. There are a few fires burning in Northern Ca and Oregon but the smoke is blowing East and we are not affected. It is somewhat concerning that both of the bikepacking trips I was considering this summer are not currently possible because of fires in Oregon. I have decided to bike a route on the Olympic Peninsula in hopes that the rainforest likely won't burn! Anyway, I digress.....Sometime in September the solar system will become a reality at the house. 13.5kW of peak power from the sun should cover all electrical use. I will also add an EV charging station that guests can use. One small step to reduce the carbon footprint! As always, life is really good when you stop and think about it. Hope you have a chance to enjoy a relaxing stay at the house!
Welcome to spring in West Sonoma County! I have some good technology news for the guests but first some history. Way back in 2013 when I was setting up the technology for Sebastopol Redwood House I could only get satellite internet and only 30Gigs per month (!) of data. No cable, no DSL, no options. Given that the signal was transmitted into space and back I was amazed it worked at all but it was slow and would be degraded by cloud cover. As streaming became more popular the 30 Gig /month allowance became an Achilles heel and the satellite company bumped me up to a whopping the 50Gigs/month. That allotment was barely functional and one weekend my kids burned through almost the entire month of data so I became the data police. Then the pandemic hit and working from home via Zoom conferencing etc was in demand. My 50Gigs was akin to having an outhouse for a bathroom. No cable option was available. On a whim I called ATT and they had just installed a DSL node close enough to get DSL. Last week I reconfigured the internet and we now have 14Mbs unlimited data and it works really well. So Netflix streaming, playing Sonos music all day etc. is no longer an issue. No more slog to the outhouse! Im stoked.
Spring has arrived in the Occidental area which translates to fields of yellow mustard flowers, fuzzy willows, wild iris blooms, green hillsides and rain showers replacing rain storms. It was a dry winter so while the creeks are running, the water levels are low. This has the locals grumbling but guests to the area won't know the difference! As the vaccines roll out things are getting back to normal. Occidental has good and functional outdoor dining options and things are getting busier for sure. The wineries are open for business in a social distancing sort of way but I suspect by summer we will be normalized. Maybe not mosh pit normalized, but functionally normal hopefully including outdoor concerts. So get out there and see what there is to see or stay put and gobble up data to your hearts content!
Welcome to 2021! While it may not seem much improved over 2020 at this point, I am encouraged that we are heading in the right direction and that normalcy will return this summer. As I write, Occidental is getting a ton of rain that will really help what has been a dry winter thus far. Outdoor dining is now legal again in Sonoma County so the outdoor venues in Occidental, Graton, and Sebastopol will be open on weekends. The creeks are running, the hills are green and the pussy willows are close to budding out. February is really the beginning of spring in Sonoma County. The mustard flowers will be blooming in areas by the end of the month. My usual events content still has to wait for covid improvement but there is a lot to do outdoors in these parts so check out my things to do tab!
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.