The sun’s still above Cobb, but it’s steadily easing behind it, stretching the light into the four-car garage, where, tucked in a corner and surrounded by sound-dampening cloth, Breaker One-9 finishes up a song. A few thumps and bass notes fiddle around, then quiet as the band takes a break from practicing their first set. In an empty bay of the garage, papers, a tablet, and Diet Coke spread across the pool table. Mike Mendenhall sits at its edge in a foldup chair, his knees pressed against the table.
David and Trudy Wakefield started The Bloom in 2018 to showcase the best parts of Lake County and to provide a local outlet for community events, arts, music, and writing.
The Gathering podcast is hosted by Michelle R Scully. We’ll be gathering together great guests to explore thoughts, learn more about our neighbors, magnify kindness, and there will be laughing. Gather with us and let’s start making up for all those lost times together over this past year. The guests in this episode are Rachel and Christian Ahlmann, of Six Sigma Ranch, Vineyard, and Winery but we won’t be talking business. Four years ago Rachel and Christian decided to live debt-free and create a light carbon footprint by making a vintage Airstream trailer home to them and their three awesome kids. Multiply that togetherness in a 30’ by 8’ aluminum space by 1000x when the pandemic came along and threw a curveball or ten. We talk about what makes the Ahlmann 5 tick, life lessons with kids and from kids, and everything in between.
We spot Ben Hittle as we walk into the Farmers’ Market in Middletown. He stands underneath a gigantic oak tree, sunglasses pulled up onto the striped beanie pulled tight on his head. He’s selling trees. “It’s a cedar,” he tells us, his blonde goatee framing his smile, “and it can only be found in two places in Lake County. It’s an endangered species.” “That’s incredible,” I reply. “What type of cedar is it? “I don’t know,” he responds. “I’ve looked for hours and spent way too much time on the phone trying to figure it out. Nobody knows. No,” he pauses. “Somebody knows. I’ll find them.”
It’s springtime again, and all the bushes and flowers are slowly coming back to life. This slow budding of the new season also is happening with one of my favorite plants: poison oak. Even in its budding, it’s beautiful. Three small leaves poke out, bright green and red-orange. They spread across the ground, wind their way up trees, and work their way across fields. Then, as summer is followed by fall, they turn golden, red, and orange, covering those fields with a painter’s palate-worth of color. However, not everyone feels the same way that I do about this plant. “I hate it,” most people tell me. But that is something I could never, ever, do. You see, my love for poison oak is hard-earned.
Wine barrels sit under the extended awning of 350 North in Lakeport, converted into tables. Barstools stretch around them, with diners propped on the edges, enjoying a beer and burger. Inside, sports play on the televisions, and country music fills in the moments between conversations. “Be proud of your hometown. It’s a big part of what makes you the person you are”, a large sign above the bar reads. “Lakeport Proud”. The atmosphere’s relaxed, casual. It’s the kind of place to get a meal, then hang out for a couple of hours chatting with friends.
The Laughing Lady leans back and guffaws, her huge, smiling body rocking. Meanwhile, the boy above her sticks his tongue out, then slowly draws it back in. The nutcracker wiggles back and forth eagerly, while blackbirds desperately try to get out of the pie. But it’s just getting started. The kittens search for their lost mittens, while Giannini from the Bank of Italy in San Francisco looks on impassively. The Fonz, the Man From U. N. C. L. E, and Atom Ant all make an appearance, as does Fozzie Bear. It’s just another afternoon at the Lunchbox Museum in Nice, where Deb Clarke showcases her massive collection of retro Americana.
“I call myself a winegrower,” Greg says. “I’m my own vineyard manager, and at the end point, I’m a winemaker. It’s not about getting tonnage. It’s about growing high-quality fruit. Grapes don’t ripen at the same time. I pick them over three weeks to ensure they are picked at the peak.” And it shows in his wines. Every bottle at Gregory Graham is distinct, unique, and thoughtfully created. “I would put my grapes and wines against anyone,” he says. “I put my thumbprint on the wines.”
Wind whips around the tasting room, groaning through the flapping sunshades, but around the corner, it’s quiet and warm. Two chairs huddle near a patio heater, a tray filled with hand-labeled two-ounce bottles of wine to taste between them. Below the old farmhouse, old walnut trees fill the courtyard, where the wind blows water from the fountain several feet into the gravel. Birds flick through the bare branches, rising with each breeze, then settling on a new tree. A bocce court framed by a rock wall marks the end of the tasting area and the beginning of the vineyards, which sweep downward to Anderson Marsh and Clear Lake. Snow-tipped mountains rise in the distance, dusted in sugar.
Spring’s in the air, and it’s a great time to get out and support some of our local wineries and businesses. And what better way to do it than by getting a Winery Passport? It’s got complimentary tasting at eighteen Lake County wineries, plus a host of other perks. Pick up a free appetizer at the Saw Shop Public House when you purchase an entry, enjoy a complimentary kayak rental from Clearlake Campground, or get a discount on a room at one of several places, such as the Tallman Hotel or The Lodge at Blue Lakes. You’ll pay $66.95 per passport, and once you go to a couple of wineries, you’ll have paid for it already. For more information about the program and to purchase, head to the Lake County Winery Association Website.
Since reopening October 15th, Live Oak Grill has quickly established a loyal customer base. Much of it has to do with owners Jennifer and Jamie’s friendly disposition. They’re relaxed, comfortable, and easy to talk to. And a lot has to do with the quality of the food. Everything’s handmade and done well, with plenty of attention to detail.
“We’re creating healthy alternatives for people,” Josh says, finishing up the smoothie while Margie rings up the customer. “When I discovered this, I worked at the post office, and Margie was at CVS. Hang on.” He pulls out his phone and scrolls through it. “Here it is.” He flips the screen our way, showing a picture of him with a neck brace. “I had to go through neck and spine surgery and felt terrible. But I lost 100 pounds in ten months, and feel great. Margie lost 50 pounds.” He’s bouncing around the shop, full of energy. Margie’s just as excited as Josh. “It’s a healthy café,” she adds. “We have protein waffles, protein donuts, vegan options, and a fitness and recovery menu. “We are making a healthy, active lifestyle hub. It’s more than coming in and getting shakes.”
The Bloom seeks quality restaurant and winery reviews. If you love Lake County’s food and wine and have the ability to tell a story, get in touch with us. We’re looking for storytellers, not reporters, and consider the ability to communicate an experience of vital importance. For more information, check out our submission guidelines.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the board of Shade Canyon School voted to expand its plans to include transitional kindergarten through third grade beginning in fall of 2022, pending student enrollment. Positive budget projections and responses to Shade Canyon’s online Community Interest Survey have convinced the school initiative’s board that it is feasible to offer more grades from the beginning than originally planned. In keeping with the school’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, the grades offered would depend upon adequate enrollment. After its first year, Shade Canyon plans to add one grade each subsequent year until the school reaches a full TK-8 program.
How about some snow? This week brought some needed moisture, especially in the mountains. We ended up with fourteen inches at our place, turning it into a winter wonderland. This week we’re re-releasing an article on the Wholly Bowl, a great restaurant hidden away in Lakeport. If you haven’t been, give it a try. Jenn Allen-Malinowski is always up for a good meal and conversation. We’ve got more moisture in the forecast, so kick back with a cup of tea and enjoy your weekend.
It doesn’t matter what you order at Wholly Bowl; you’ll get quality food made with fresh ingredients. Jenn doesn’t over-spice or over-sweeten her food. It’s meant to be balanced. “’Wholly’ means all-inclusive,” Jenn says, excitement in her eyes. “It’s all in one bowl.” She ticks off ingredients on her fingers: “The crisp of the veggies with the fat of the avocado, the hot rice, and the crunch of the cabbage and kale. The protein, the starch, the veggies and the sauce. It’s the layered ingredients with the multiple sauces; the synergy of them all combined creates something wholly new.”
Thanks to local support The Bloom is now able to pay its writers. We’re currently looking for the following: $25 per poem/series of poems ($50 if exceptional). $25 for short fiction/creative nonfiction ($50 if exceptional). $10 per column/blog/video blog (up to $25). We’re interested in the following topics: cooking, outdoors, restaurants, wineries, and human interest. Of course, we’re open to ideas. For more information, visit our submissions page.
If you live in Lake County and haven’t been to Castle Donuts yet, you’re seriously missing out. This shop creates donuts that fill people’s fantasies. It doesn’t matter which type you choose; you can’t go wrong. From bacon maple bars to custard-filled, chocolate-covered donuts, from old-fashioned to glazed, from apple fritters to bear claws, Castle Donuts makes them all spectacularly.
Once the pavement ends, it’s like entering another world, peaceful, calm, filled with light and laughter. Massive valley oaks arch overhead, shading the fire pit and picnic area. Bamboo wind chimes clink in the soft breeze. Martin Pohl, owner of Beaver Creek, steps out to greet us. “Hello! Hello!” he smiles as he walks towards us, his flip flops clicking with each step. “Welcome!”
On Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks sits an unassuming white building with red trim. It’s the home to Betty’s Tacos. Betty’s tacos has a menu full of great items from oversized tortas to burritos, sopes, and salads. But, if you’re going there, you’ll have to try the tacos. Each four inch corn tortilla is filled with flavor; the beef is seasoned and tender, chopped fine, but not too small. Topped with tidbits of lettuce, cilantro, radish, grilled onion, a squeeze of lime, and the salsa of your choice, it’s bright, juicy, and tangy.
Over the years, our family has enjoyed some Christmas reading. We’ve read through The Little Match Girl, The Elves and the Shoemaker, A Christmas Carol, Sherlock Holmes and The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle, and many other great stories. But one of our favorites is poet Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which we read every Christmas Eve. It’s a beautiful story that shares Christmas memories from over one hundred years ago. If you’re looking for an enjoyable short read, here’s a link to a public domain version:http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701261h.html
It’s the holidays in Lake County. The pale winter sun reflects in spots and flashes off Clear Lake. A few bass boats putt along the shoreline, their owners flicking their lures into nooks and crevices, then winding them slowly in. At the nearby park, a couple sits at a picnic bench, eating lunch. And hidden off to the side, tucked like a treasure to the left of the boat launch, sits Lakeside Arts and Gifts.
Kyle’s owned The Game Hub for ten years now, and he’s gotten to know his customers. “I wanted to be a teacher,” he says, “but went a different direction. I fell in love with running a business. But it’s cool to see people grow up and keep coming in.” As he chats, his daughter pulls white sticker off a label sheet and puts it on his hoodie. “What you doing?” he says kindly. “Are you putting stickers on my back?” “No, she replies, then waits for him to turn around before putting another one on.
The stage is set at the Soper Reese Theater in Lakeport. Four Christmas trees frame the presentation screen, two to the left and two to the right. A grand piano and podium balance the front of the stage; it’s the first time the piano’s been out since March. Maryann Schmid and Olga Martin Steele, cofounders of the 1 Team, 1 Dream competition, bustle back and forth from the auditorium to the lobby, checking on the innumerable details involved in coordinating both a physical and virtual competition. The theater’s sparsely filled; everyone’s distanced and masked. Three judges sit at their tables on the floor, spaced in thirds across the stage: Pat Scully, Laurie Dohring, and Ernesto Padilla all wait eagerly to hear the contestants. Olga wipes down the microphones with disinfectant wipes, then steps to the podium and double-checks that the Facebook feed is up and running. “Welcome to the first-ever business competition in Lake County,” she begins.
Have you ever had a dream that moved you? Not the one where you end up going to work in your undies. I mean the kind of dream that, even years later, you remember vividly. Artist Helen Kate McAllister (or HK) lives her life in those dreams, creating the art of the subconscious. Her artwork […]
Did you know that a turkey’s snood can change color depending upon their emotions? I didn’t either until I read local Lake County author Lori Armstrong’s children’s book Bubbly Jock and the Thanksgiving Fallacy. It’s the story of Bubbly Jock Jack, a turkey living on an organic farm complete with corn mazes and goat yoga. There Jack spends his days following the farmer on his rounds, playing with the farmer’s children, and pecking grain from the visiting kids’ hands. He leads an idyllic life until he overhears something that makes him question everything.