Fallen Leaves & Fog

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Once upon a time we rented a house in Petaluma, California. It was very modern with bleached wood, sharp angles and a lot of glass. A particularly nice thing about it was that it had a very funky backyard that was the complete opposite of the structure. There was a falling down shed a rickety fence a bench made out of a single slab of unfinished wood. It was unkempt and unplanted.

We loved it.

Ghost From The Not Too Distant Past

Pay Phone

A Very Smart Small Farm



Here in California, land of mega-scale corporate farming, there are still wonderful examples of small farming enterprises that practice agriculture very differently and survive very well. One of these is Green String Farm right down the road from us here in Petaluma.

If you do nothing else today go to their website right now and check them out. I can wait.


At Green String they farm in a way that initially looks odd to the first time visitor. Their crop rows don’t look clean and tidy like most farms. In fact one would be hard pressed to even see some of their vegetables because often they are covered with weeds. For instance here is some lettuce. If it wasn’t a red leaf variety it would almost entirely disappear in the grass.


The theory behind this messy looking farming is really quite simple. All plants, whether weed or vegetable, compete with all other plants for survival. This competition is a battle of the fittest. A vegetable that is able to overcome the hostile treatment by its weed neighbors is an all-round better vegetable for having to compete this way. All Green String does is to stack the deck a little to insure the veggies triumph in the end. So if it appears the weeds are winning too much they will get lopped down just enough to make sure the vegetable ultimately wins. Below you can see a worker weed whacking a plot to insure this outcome.


There’s more. Sheep graze in their vineyard to keep weeds down in the early spring and chicken pens are moved around the farm from place to place to do the same thing. They fertilize with manure “tea” and oyster shells and above all they pay attention to the health of the soil for, as they stress over and over again, without that they couldn’t produce these glorious vegetables.




One more thing. These folks have an internship program where they teach their methods to young people in the hopes of spreading the skill of small scale farming/gardening to as wide an audience as possible. One Sunday we were privileged to go on a tour of the farm conducted by two very bright young ladies who intended to, once they left Green String, go back home and start pilot programs in their neighborhoods.


One lives in New York and one in Chicago.

How cool is that!

Pre-digital Inboxes


Poverty, and Roses by The River



Petaluma, California was once a very active commercial river town. In fact at one time in this city’s history there was more money in the banks here than anywhere else in the state. Nowadays things have changed and this little city’s waterfront is no longer the center of its economic activity. The river is badly in need of dredging and poverty is settling in along some of its edges.




Yet even here among the hardscrabble homes, where free roaming chickens peck at overgrown front yards, the roses bloom and their sweet smell heralds better times.

That’s my hope anyway.


The Dancing Super Sonic Smog Man


Here in Petaluma there is a cheerful dude who is somewhat of a local institution. He quite regularly comes to the corner of D and Lakeville Streets wielding a large, banged-up plywood sign advertising a local smog testing outfit. If he only stood around and held up that sign he wouldn’t be worth much notice but he DANCES with the thing. I mean he really makes some fine happy moves! I don’t know what he’s listening to on those big earphones but it sure must be some tuneful rocking stuff.

Beauty Disguises Our Drought



Walking our usual bird watching route along the perimeter of Shollenberger Park last evening the darkening sky created a lovely scene. But the silver etched edges of the pond’s low waterline were a beautiful reminder of how badly this part of California needs water.

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