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.
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.
If you’re looking for some great wine to pair with your holiday feasts, look no further. Lake County has an abundance of high-quality wines. It’s all because of our unique volcanic terroir, the secret that makes every Lake County wine unique. Here are eight recommendations to make any meal better.
For decades, Loch Lomond Resort ran on a predictable routine, filling each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, then emptying each winter, leaving boarded-up cabins and a few hearty year-round residents. The summer of 1967, known in San Francisco as The Summer of Love, was an eventful year for Loch Lomond. Not only did the resort have its own hippy crisis, but it also changed forever.
Soon after setting up the lodge for Loch Lomond, Lilburn and Ruth Prather Moody opened a campground, had the land subdivided, and began selling lots. At this time in America’s history, a working-class family could own a vacation home. And the Loch Lomond Resort was no exception: If someone wandered into the bar on a Saturday afternoon, they could have a chat with Ruth, and she’d write up a deed of sale on the placemat. For $500, a person could buy a lot and build a cabin.
I’ve been to my share of East Indian restaurants. Back in the day, it was the choice location for many a dull business lunch. And those restaurants varied from delightful to those that seemed to be trying to punch me with spices. I’ve left restaurants smelling like I just worked out. So when my wife and I decided to visit Arti Natural and Organic Indian Cafe, I had no expectations. It is the only Indian place in the county, and I had already decided that I would be polite, regardless of whether I had a strong gym sock odor at the end of the meal. If you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll understand. But as soon as I entered the restaurant, I knew this place was different.
Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ The simple act of pretending happiness, or pretending courage, or beginning a task you know you cannot do, accomplishes other miracles. When I am sad or fearful or dead certain I cannot accomplish some formidable task, the simple act of acting and pretending as if I am brave or happy or see that job already finished makes me happier, braver, and, somehow able to finish the job in style.
In the days when Loch Lomond Resort still ran, seven Prather brothers roamed the mountain, raising hell wherever they went (That’s their words, not mine): Steve, Mike, Gary, Danny, Donny, Timmy, and Darryl. At the cabin on Prather mountain, I’m chatting with three of them. Danny’s rummaging through the icebox for ice while Steve and I sit at the table and talk about the past. A few minutes later, Mike walks in, takes off his coat, and kicks back in a chair. The cabin’s made entirely of wood from the mountain, milled on-site, and built by the Prathers. Framed pictures of bobcats, cougars, and bears caught in a game camera line one wall, surrounded by old guns hanging from hooks.
It’s seven o’clock in Middletown, California. The sun has just set, leaving its last beams to stretch across the rugged Mayacamas Mountains. As the last glimmer of purple eases from the ridges of Mount St. Helena, the lights around Twin Pine Casino begin to glimmer. Located approximately thirty minutes north of Calistoga and just south of Middletown, a rural town with an incredible art gallery and spectacular Thai food, Twin Pine has been a part of the Middletown community for decades. It hosts free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, supports the local community, and serves as an evacuation center during fires. And, like everyone else, Twin Pine has had to adapt. Following the COVID shut down in March, Twin Pine made some large adjustments to ensure that the guests were safe when they visited.
Danny Prather bears a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather, William Robert. Broad-shouldered and solid-footed from years of felling trees, he hunches over the steering wheel, winding among dirt roads that zigzag across the mountainside. A controlled burn heads into the distance off to the left, eating away at the greenbrown leaves and needles and leaving behind a smoldering haze. I first met Danny at The Roadhouse, Loch Lomond’s long-time, and now closed, bar, where he and his brothers would regularly play music together. He peers through the dusty windshield as we climb a steep hill. “Some people call this Siegler Mountain,” I say. The woods around spread in a patchwork of pine, fir, cedar, and oak trees, all groomed and free of undergrowth. “Yeah, and some people call it Prather mountain,” Danny quickly replies. “It’s been in our family longer than anybody else’s. Siegler was there only a few years.” He cranes his neck to look up the road. “It looks like Gary’s doing some burning,” he says, slowing down. “There he is!” He pulls over and begins walking up towards the burn line.
To understand Loch Lomond, you need to get to know Ruth Springston (Prather) Moody. You met her last week; she’s the one who named the place, helped build it, and maintained it for years. Ruth was there from the beginning. She cleaned rooms, checked guests in and out, filled in at the restaurant, ran the bar, and did everything else in between. After her divorce from Lilburn Prather, Ruth took over the resort and ran it for several years, influencing many. Her strong opinions and tough-mindedness still can be seen in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In 1936, Lilburn Prather, W. R.’s son, decided to move and start a new resort a few miles down the road from his father’s resort at Adams Springs. There, on the edge of Highway 175 and hidden beneath the massive pine trees, he started building a rustic lodge. His wife Ruth, inspired by the mountain air and her Scottish heritage, named the resort that sat at the edge of a small vernal pond Loch Lomond. Their son, Lilburn Prather, Jr., made the most of his childhood at the resort. Eighty-four years later, Trudy and I sit at his kitchen table. Known to most as Bob, his shoulders, though hunched, still stretch broadly in his flannel shirt. His son Danny sits next to him, flipping pages of a scrapbook. It’s a crisp day outside, and waves from Clear Lake splash against the bulkhead. A few grebes squeak calls to each other.
I first need to warn you about the view. It slaps you in the face as soon as you turn past the corrugated tin Laujor Sign and head down the hill to the tasting room. It is. Be careful to focus on the road and not Konocti and the sweep of mountaintops across the horizon as you drive into the parking lot. Vines surround the tasting room, but don’t worry; going inside won’t ruin the view. Pull open the glass doors and step up to the tasting counter. A massive picture window runs the length of the back wall so that with every sip of wine you can enjoy the exquisite beauty of Lake County.
Where once stood a kitchen, only an old stove remains. It lays on the ground, flopped on its side, once-white enamel slowly rusting to grey-brown. Sheet metal and tin scatter across the grounds, holding back the scotch broom and blackberry bushes. Bedsprings jauntily poke out of the creekbed, sagged and twisted. Among the debris, a thick piece of handblown glass dating from the turn of the 20th century sits, only a small slice of what once was a gallon jug. The winter sun barely pokes through the hazy sky. It doesn’t look like the map Steve Prather had scribbled on the bottom of a 24 pack of 7-Up a week earlier. His map had squares on it, marking houses and the location of the spring. I look at the torn piece of cardboard in my hand one more time, then look up. There’s nothing here. Only couple of flat spots in a steep-walled notch that drops down into the depths of Big Canyon. In the tip of the notch, some fir and pine trees that made it through the Valley Fire still stand. A trickle of a creek winds through them, shaded in the depths.
It can be hard to start a new career, and in a rural county like ours, obstacles can prevent it from happening. If you’ve ever wanted to teach, but felt that it was impossible because you didn’t have a teaching certificate or the financial means to get one, take heart. The Lake and Mendocino County Offices of Education offer Teach Lake County, a program that will help you reach your goals and give you teaching experience at the same time. The Bloom spoke with Jamie Buckner-Bridges, Coordinator of Teacher Development for Teach Lake County, about the program.
Cindy Leonard, Cobb Area Council member and the primary Firewise organizer for the day’s event, stands at the edge of Rainbow Bridge, a large roll of stickers in her hand. “Here,” she says, a smile in her eyes. “Take a couple.” She rips off four stickers. A rainbow arches over the words “Rainbow Bridge Celebration”. The bottom of the sticker reads: “5 Year Valley Fire Anniversary”. “It’s so nice to have something good,” Cindy says. “Particularly with how things are now. With the disasters,” She looks up at the haze that has lifted for the day, leaving the sky a misty-blue. “And COVID.” But she’s smiling, and her rainbow-striped skirt matches the bridge stretching across Kelsey Creek behind her. Rainbow streamers drape its sides, and signs with “Thank You” and “Finally” written on them in marker hang from the posts. AmeriCorps volunteers wander back and forth, leaning over the railings to watch the water flow beneath. It’s been a long road since the Valley Fire for the Cobb community, and today, five years after the fire, something beautiful happened. The importance of a small, single-lane bridge cannot be underestimated. For the past three years, the Estates neighborhood of Cobb, consisting of nearly 100 homes, has only had one entrance and exit. “That was scary when we had a house fire here last November,” Cindy says. “But this is just part of a larger four million dollar project that Cobb Water Company is working on.” Her eyes light up. “We’re going to have fire hydrants every five hundred feet!” Cindy, seeing another neighbor, quickly greets them: “Did you get some stickers?” The Rainbow Bridge collapsed in the winter of 2017 during the heavy rains. “We’ve got six pilings forty feet into the ground,” Robert Stark of Cobb Water Company and designer of the plan, says, standing at the edge of the bridge. They’ve rebuilt it to withstand another hundred- and thirty-inch rain year like the one that destroyed it. He looks across the creek at the sloping bank. “We used oversized American Steel to make it stronger. And we’ve still got to put riprap in. Then it won’t wash out.” To the left of the bridge in her parent’s driveway, Jessica Pyska decorates her vehicle with her children, getting it ready for the upcoming parade of cars. “It’s been a long haul, that’s for sure,” she says. “And it’s been a difficult and emotional time, with all this going on. It’s nice to have a glimmer of hope and joy.” It’s truly a community celebration and proof of Cobb’s resilience in the past five years. “it wasn’t an easy or quick process,” Cindy says. “It took a lot of drive and creativity by many people to see the project through to the end. The Friends of Cobb Mountain donated $26,000 to help fund the bridge, Americorps provided volunteers. District Supervisor Rob Brown and Jeff Lucas from Community Development Services provided assistance; State Senator Mike McGuire even helped advocate the project. North Coast Opportunities, EPIC/Listos, American Red Cross all helped fund and support the event. And it shows: there are almost as many volunteers as people coming for the event. Neighbors mill around, chatting with friends, and picking up their complimentary lunches. Kids lean over the bridge railings, dropping rocks into the water. Cars begin to line up on the road, getting ready to cross. After a few minutes, neighbors, friends, Cobb Water employees, and CAC members duck under the red ribbon stretching across the bridge, grab a massive pair of scissors, and cut it. Everyone cheers and claps; it’s a new beginning. A few minutes later the fire truck whoops its siren and the parade begins. Cars, following the fire trucks, begin to stream across the bridge, honking their horns. Neighbors clap and cheer, laughing and telling jokes as they cross the span. Jeeps, motorcycles, golf carts, and dogs in wagons walk across the creek, each with a big smile. AmeriCorps volunteers wait for them to cross, handing each driver a cupcake or two. And the parade keeps going. After crossing the Rainbow Bridge, the cars turn left on Bottle Rock Road for the first time in three years, then loop around to cross again. “We didn’t plan on it being on the fifth anniversary of the Valley Fire,” Cindy says. “But it’s good.” She smiles again. “It’s good to have some good news.”
“We try to make the best pizza that we can,” Pete Ogo, co-owner of Pogos Pizza, says. “Everything’s from scratch. We make our own sauce, and our sausage is locally made for us using a special recipe.” He pauses for a second, but that’s just to catch his breath. “We’re really picky. We only prep our vegetables for that day; they’re never old.” Pete’s getting excited. It’s undeniable that he loves what he does. “You know what? Our biggest goal is to have the best product in the community and be as involved as we can.”
It’s a warm summer afternoon, but under the covered work area behind the tasting room it’s shady, and the afternoon breeze pushes air through, cooling it further. Paul Manuel, owner of Chacewater, sits at a picnic table, face shield stretching around his head. “I’m sorry about having to taste out here,” he says immediately. “Two weeks ago, we had to shift our tasting room outside. And this is our work area.” He pauses. “I don’t know how much longer we’re going to have to do this.” It’s not so bad. The sitting area is casual, comfortable, and welcoming. In front of a stack of wine barrels stands a short tasting bar. Several picnic tables stretch across the patio, a couple sitting at one. The breeze is pleasant, and the shade feels cool. Classic rock plays in the background, and the couple sings along to the chorus. Just on the other side of the shaded area, olive trees stretch in rows, guiding the eyes further outward towards the mountainous horizon. Bright sun glints off the still-small olives, ripening in speckles of chartreuse and white. Come late fall, they will darken to shades of purples, vibrant greens, and chocolate browns.
Just in front of Wholly Bowl, and sitting between Grocery Outlet and the Dollar Tree in Lakeport stands Shoreline Coffee Shop. It’s an unassuming spot, sandwiched next to a wireless store and discount shop. Usually, diners sit inside, but since COVID, tables stretch out in the open-air hallway where customers sit, sipping on drip coffee and forking into plates piled with food. If you’re looking for comfort food, Shoreline is a great place to begin. To read the full article, click the link.
It’s been said that Lake County isn’t business-friendly. With the 1 Team, 1 Dream competition, Maryann Schmid has upended that notion. She has an ability: seeing the potential in people and businesses. “I have no skills,” she laughs, smiling a huge, bright smile. “The only skill I have is being an entrepreneur. And I want to help other entrepreneurs succeed.” That’s why she and Olga Martin Steele founded the 1 Team, 1 Dream competition, a contest designed to help foster promote small businesses in our county. Prizes for the competition range from $1,000 for fifth place up to $15,000 for first. But the 1 Team, 1 Dream competition is much more than just winning a cash prize. It’s about learning how to implement an idea effectively. Once the application deadline closes on August 31st, several of the applicants will continue in the competition. They will attend a one-day training on business planning, learn how to develop a business plan, and make a presentation on their idea to a panel of judges. All applicants will learn invaluable skills needed to succeed in our constantly changing economy.
Even though it’s 8:30, the night is still warm. The clear, Lake County sky has turned burgundy-purple, while the large, white movie screen nestles between the sunset and mountains. The dazzling light of the projector illuminates the darkness as moths flick between its rays. “Lakeport Auto Movies” shines across the screen, a crescent moon cradling the words. “DRIVE IN MOVIES” stretches out underneath. It’s a summer night at the movies. Every night the Drive-In has a double-feature on the big screen. And since COVID-19 happened, it’s a great way to get out for a late night in the summer, when late nights are the best time to be outdoors.
You may think you’re lost by the time you get to Old Long Valley Road, particularly if you’re coming into Lake County from Williams. Highway 20 winds and twists back upon itself for thirty-five miles as it leaves the valley and works its way into the mountains of Lake County. But if you’re coming from the other direction, it’s only a ten-minute drive from Clearlake Oaks, a small town with a great bakery and good Mexican food.As soon as the car tuns off the highway, the road gets rough. A sign sticks out of the brush, slightly lopsided. “Low Water Crossing 3 3/10 miles ahead,” it states. “Not Maintained During Winter Months.” But don’t worry. Stonehouse Cellars is only a mile away, and there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the view. The road turns into a single lane and winds between the now golden-hued grass that spreads across the steeply sloped mountainsides. A dry creek bed matches the curves of the road. Off in the distance, past the patches of oak trees, mountains shadow into mountains, until they disappear grey-black in the distance. As the road swings into Stonehouse Cellars, a pond appears, surrounded by cattails. On its banks stands a cabin, former stagecoach stop and retreat of Country musician Tennessee Ernie Ford. It’s been completely remodeled and is now available to rent as part of Stonehouse’s Bed and Barrel lodging service. A large willow tree arches over the pond, and a small paddleboat nests in a crack of the foliage. A full-length porch stretches in front of the house, welcoming and inviting. It’s ready for an afternoon with a good book. But the tasting room is up the hill to the right, past the large Stonehouse Cellars sign. There, on a ridgeline, stands a modern structure, straight-lined, pushing vertically upward, contrasting the swell and swoop of the mountains that reach out beyond it. Open the large glass door, and the heat of the summer afternoon dissipates. It’s quiet inside, and the tall ceilings stretch the sound, muffling and extending it. Chairs and couches fill the middle of the room, and a table and shuffleboard stand near the doors leading to the patio. It’s empty country; there’s no other house in sight.
The building first came to life in 1941, during the Second World War, when cars with rounded fenders and swooping hoods drove up and down Main Street, and people still came into town on their horses. The bottom floor houses a couple of shops that front the street, their full windows looking out on the tree-edged sidewalk. Pumpkin-orange in color and black-trimmed, the building’s rectangular form stands a full head above the market to its left and Smiling Dogs Winery to its right. There, in the left-hand corner, a small, black door stands, unobtrusively and easily missed. On the eave above it, a section of an old pear box hangs, “Suite On Main” stenciled in its worn, weathered wood. Open the door, and a steep set of stairs immediately rises, forcing the head to look upwards. Then down the hall, and it’s the first door on the right. Welcome to The Loft at Suite on Main.
The afternoon sunlight filters through the willow tree stretching above the table. Sitting on the edge of Clear Lake, it’s easy to hear the slap of the water against the bulkheads and watch the grebes dance across the lake, necks outstretched. Behind them, the shoulders of Mt. Konocti stretch upwards. And on the table sits a Smokin’ Burger complete with sides of beans, fries, and coleslaw, waiting to be consumed. The Smokin’ Burger is one of the top-selling burgers. It’s a big burger, topped with smoked pork, pepper jack cheese, and a healthy dose of barbecue sauce. And, of course, there’s magic happening there. The sauce gives a creamy contrast to the grilled flavor of the burger, and the pulled pork slides across the top, layered with intention to draw out the fullness of the meat. The burger veritably drips with flavor, and across your hands and down your arms as well. It’s impossible not to get messy eating it, or not to leave full.
If you’ve driven Highway 20 to Ukiah, you’ve passed by Blue Lakes, two connected bodies of water that shine like jewels in the crack of the mountains. It’s easy to get distracted as driving by the crystal-clear waters that mirror the sky above them. During COVID-19, there are so many things we can’t do, but whether you’re local to Lake County or just visiting, one experience you can’t miss is to take a boat out on the lakes. Once you’re out on the water, you’ll understand the magic. First of all, Blue Lakes is deep. Really deep. As the electric boat pulls away from the dock, it’s like gliding out onto an emerald green abyss. Sun shines into the water, its rays stretching down into the depths. Even though it has four resorts on it, Blue Lakes is largely unpopulated, which means that there are plenty of places to stretch out and enjoy the sunshine and nature. A gentle breeze picks up every afternoon, which make drifting a delight. Start at the narrows, put the boat in neutral, and feel the wind slowly push the boat down the lake. Now’s a good time to hop into the cool, crisp water. As you jump in, you open your eyes; the underwater world glows green, the bubbles winding upward. It’s silent and soothes the skin like silk.
After chatting for a while, Pascal picks out some pastries for us to try. Marcel’s Bakery and Café does it right. They get their flour and butter from France, which means fewer chemicals and gluten. That, along with considerable skill in baking, makes pastries that are light, flaky, and created with attention to detail. Take the apricot croissant, for example. Marcel’s uses whole apricots that give it a tangy tartness, which combined with the creamy custard and flaky, creates a croissant that’s memorable, and impossible to put down. Speaking of impossible to put down, the éclair causes its own dilemmas. “You’ll want to eat the éclair now,” Pascal told us. Sizably portioned and drizzled in chocolate with a refreshingly cool custard, it disappeared immediately. The same goes for the chocolate twist, a sweet, but not overly sweet, creamy chocolately twist that leaves one with a satisfied, happy feeling. Of course, Marcel’s Bakery and Café has many other options, from baguette to panini. The Lakeport store has a full deli, and our children love Marcel’s macaroons, delicately flavored cookies that dissolve in the mouth.