This past week has been busy for our family. In between doing all the fun events happening around the county, our garden and friends’ gardens are demanding a great deal of our attention. I am happy to say we have a year’s supply of homemade pesto in the freezer and a fridge full of pickled cucumbers, onions drying, and herbs picked for teas. For whatever reason, our zucchinis are taking their time, and I have to admit I’m kinda grateful. I know more of everything is on the way! This is the kind of busy work and play that makes summer so much fun. This week we’re excited about all the great things yet to come in Lake County. Grillin’ on the Green returns to Lakeport next week, and in September the Soapbox Derby returns to Clearlake and the Big Valley, Small Farms tour will begin its third year. But there’s plenty to do before then. Check out our Big Calendar to see for yourself. Whatever your plans are for the weekend, I hope it’s filled with too many things to do in all the good ways and plenty of water, because the heat has returned.
Gene Paleno grew up in the 30’s on his family’s farm near Detroit, Michigan. As a boy, he learned to drive an old Model T Ford, hauling hay and feeding the cows at dawn. Gene was the eldest of six children to Eugene and Alice Paleno, with a work ethic that was incumbent upon his role as the eldest boy. After high school he served in the US Navy during WWII, and as a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve until 1966. Gene taught school after graduating from Michigan State University in 1946. In the early 1950’s during the aerospace industry boom, the entire Paleno Family (parents, sisters, brothers, spouses, and children) packed up and moved to California. Gene was employed by Douglas Aircraft Corporation as a Commercial Artist. While with Douglas, he traveled to a Paris airport hangar to participate in a marketing demonstration. The company had him wearing a helium balloon to simulate walking on the moon. He would recall how the wind almost carried him into the busy landing path at Le Bourget Airport.
Going to live music events in Lake County this summer is a bit like going to a family reunion. You run into people you haven’t seen in a couple of years! I couldn’t believe how many people I missed seeing in 2020. One couple I bumped into told me they brought their boom box every Friday to Library Park in Lakeport just because they missed Friday night’s Concert in the Park. The good news is there’s plenty more live music in the calendar. And if you’re a Hot Roux fan, they’re playing everywhere in the county right now. This is your weekend to see them at least once. Check out the Lake County Music Guide or the Party Calendar and see for yourself. This week we’re excited to re-release an article we wrote back in 2019, The Best Way to Spend a Friday Night in Lakeport. You’ve got a lot of options for a lot of fun. Have a fun weekend, and stay safe. – Trudy Wakefield, Editor
The hum of boats on the lake fills the background as growing shadows dance further and further out into the rippling water. Live music swells from the gazebo in Library Park. Children play in the playground, and the sounds of their laughter mix with the rhythm of the band. This moment in time is one of my favorite reasons for living in Lake County. I take my first sip of Chardonnay. The sun finally rests behind the roofline of Juicy’s Pizza and the roar of unmuffled racecar engines drifts our way from Lakeport Speedway. We consider our choices for the rest of the evening. We could leave the concert in the Park, catch the races and still make it to the drive-in. We decide to box up our pizzas and put off our decision for a while.
Shakespeare At the Lake presents its sixth production this year, All’s Well That Ends Well. The production is a collaboration between Mendocino College and The Lake County Theatre Company and is directed by John Tomlinson. It will be the second virtual production for the group.
For those not familiar with the show, it takes place in rural France and focuses on Helena, a female protagonist, which is rare in Shakespeare’s work. She is a young lady who 6 months prior lost her father, “the most reputable doctor in the land,” to disease. She’s left with the Countess of the region who has a son her age with whom Helena has fallen in love. When we pick up the action of the play, the Count has died leaving the son (Bertram), the Countess, and Helena as her ward. The Countess, having just lost the Count, is also dealing with her son going off to war in Paris.
The cooler weather we’ve had these past few days has certainly been a treat. I was starting to feel like the Wicked Witch of the West, melting from the heat. It certainly makes dancing more fun when the sun goes down.
So here’s what we’ve got going this week. You may have seen them as you wandered through Kelseyville: poetry boxes are popping up all over the place. Last weekend, The Bloom talked with the masterminds behind the project and their plans to spread poetry everywhere in Lake County.
On a sadder note, Gene Paleno, writer of the Lake County History articles and one of the first supporters of The Bloom, passed away. Gene lived his life fully and had a profound impact not just on me but on all of Lake County. To honor his memory, I’ve written an article about our friendship. And if you get a chance, read an interview I did with him back in 2018. In it, I discover that Gene filled his life with new experiences and always looked for the best in people, something well worth modeling. Here’s to you, Gene. You ran the race well.
Clear Lake Campground rests on the edge of Cache Creek and has welcomed visitors for decades. RVs, tents, and trailers stretch along the creek’s banks. Kids play ping pong under the covered patio; an older couple sits in their foldup chairs, sipping on coffee. It’s another summer Saturday at the campground. But there’s excitement near the office, where Lisa Wilson, owner of Clear Lake Campground, Georgina Marie, Lake County Poet Laureate, and Gary Maes, the mastermind behind the Main St. Poetry Boxes, check the alignment of the newest poetry box. You may have bumped into a poetry box while wandering down Main Street in Kelseyville or wandered by one in Middletown. There, if you take a second, you’ll notice a well-made wooden box mounted to a wall, a poem tacked inside. It’s all part of a plan to spread poetry throughout the county.
I first met Gene three years ago at Judy’s Junction in Upper Lake over a cup of coffee to discuss publishing his Lake County History serially. By the time I got there, he was already sitting in a booth, coffee in hand, waiting for me. Even in his 90’s, Gene had a large presence. Sure, he walked with a hunch and held a cane, but the years he spent playing football and bodybuilding had left their mark. As I talked with him, he stretched his arms wide to make a point, and they reached out past the edges of the booth, able to encompass not just the table but me as well.
Hats off to those of you who fit in multiple events during the holiday weekend. My goal was to do at least five things over the 4th of July; I could only fit in four in the end. The good news is, the calendars are full of things going on in Lake County this weekend again! You’ll be hard-pressed to choose how many things you can do. What a great dilemma that is compared to a year ago. This week we’re excited to share with you Finca Castelero, a hidden gem in the middle of Kelseyvile’s pear orchards and vineyards. Plus, we’ve got a new episode of the Gathering podcast and a new, updated Lake County Music Guide for this week. Whatever your plans end up being for the weekend, remember it’s going to be a hot one. So don’t forget sunscreen and plenty of water. Above all, have a great weekend, Lake County!
Summer’s bright mid-day rays shine through the green rows of an expansive pear orchard, reaching towards Mt. Konocti. Directly behind, acres of grapevines stretch towards Kelseyville. Far above in the oak trees, two pairs of curious eyes peer out from their residential barn owl home as if curious to see who we are and what we’re doing far below.
“It was the trees. That’s what we first fell in love with when we saw the property.” Christie White, co-owner of Finca Castelero, motions upward with her arms, showing us the owl house they built, as we walk towards the barn. It’s obvious how one would fall in love with the oaks expanding far above the Airbnb cottages, not only bringing shade but that charm that comes with larger-than-life oak trees. Oh, the stories I could tell and the stories still to be shared, they seem to say.
After many years, Mrs. Cynthia Radford has retired and one of her former students, Carrie Ann Eve, is stepping up to take her place. Eve will be teaching Drama for the ninth through twelfth grades, Advanced Theatre, and Technical Design. She will also take over the Drama Club and the National Thespian Society for Middletown. She was the President of the Middletown High School Branch when she was a student at Middletown High School and she finds it pretty cool that she’s come full circle.
The odor of heated fiberglass fills the air. I’m trying to keep up with what’s happening but can’t see through the smoke of the car with the blown head gasket trying to round turn one. Who’s in first? It doesn’t matter. A roar comes from the crowd watching turn three. It looks like a couple of boats got stuck together, and one car’s dragging the other around the track. I glance at it for a second, then get distracted by the major crash happening directly in front of the grandstands. A boat’s disconnected from its chain and cartwheels in front of the Blazer. The driver twitches the steering wheel, not to avoid it, but to ensure he gets a direct hit. He aims directly for the bow, and it explodes into a spray of fiberglass and old steering cables.
In honor of Juneteenth, Freedom Day, the Middletown Art Center joined with several Lake County musicians, performers, and chefs this past weekend to celebrate the newly established national holiday. The evening’s events began in the back studio of the MAC as an intimate group of guests listened to an on-stage conversation between Clovice Lewis, musician, composer, and educator who shared his story of music, race, and social justice with host Sabrina Klein. Lewis graciously expressed his love for playing the cello and the genre he coined “Jazzical,” jazz and classical style combinations, both of which were major influences in his past.
Sabrina Andrus, owner of A+H General Store and maker. roams the side street, a big smile on her maskless face. “This is a new thing for me,” she says, referring to the novelty of being outdoors with other people and no masks. “It feels a bit weird.” She and her sister Caitlin are the co-visionaries behind the market and have created a place where people can enjoy high-quality, locally crafted goods. It’s not a farmers’ market, though there is produce, and it’s not a craft fair, though there are candles and soap. Instead, it’s a market for the many artisans that live in Lake County. The sisters are proud to note that everything sold at the market is grown, produced, or made here in Lake County.
Every time I have been to Thai American Market, I’ve been impressed with how Dale and Yupa go out of their way to make Asian food accessible. It’s easy to walk into an Asian market in the city and have absolutely no idea of what to purchase. I’ve walked out of stores with a can of quail eggs and three different types of rice noodles, only to go home and have no idea of what to do with them. That won’t happen at Thai American Market, because neither Dale nor Yupa would never allow it. Just walk into the market, tell him what you want to make, and they will walk you through exactly what you need to create that perfect Asian dish to impress your spouse and friends. He even places recipes along the shelves, just in case you see something but aren’t sure how to make it.
May winds blustered their way around Ripe Choice Farm’s barn, hurrying in the late arrivals of the Konocti Women’s Service Club (KWSC) luncheon. A few ladies stood in line to pick up a glass of wine, but most everyone had gathered inside, talking as if they hadn’t seen each other in years. In fact, it had been over a year since they had met, making this more like a family reunion than a meeting. Ladies gathered around the tables scattered throughout the barn, each decorated with wildflowers and tablecloths, making the barn warm and welcoming.
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.”
In our inaugural episode, Georgina Marie discusses poetry with poet Beulah Vega. Beulah Vega is a writer, poet, and theatrical artist living and working in California’s Bay Area. Her poetry has been published in The Literary Nest, Sage Cigarettes, Walled Women, and Blood & Bourbon among others. Her first book of poetry, ‘A Saga for the Unrequited’, will be published in August of 2021 by Fae Corps Publishing. And her theatrical production company: Heroines, Harpies, and Harlots will present the second annual Sonoma County Women’s theater festival “In Their Own Voice” starting May 8th. She will also be reading as part of the Eclipse Lit launch party/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention fundraiser on May 22nd. She is still amazed when people refer to her as a writer, every time. To listen, follow this link or visit https://www.lakecountybloom.com/rootedinpoetry
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.
The blue and emerald lake opens before us on the trail, like the sky cutting deep into the ground. Under the shade of the slender oak trees me, my brother and my dad look at the freshly green hills rimming the water. Under my hiking boots, baby grass carpets the ground with Spring. We decide to take the trail around the lake, though all the trails at Highland Spring are magnificent this time of year with the scent of Spring lingering in the air. Small blue flowers scatter the ground, like a handful of diamonds that slipped from someone’s pocket. And tall, dusty purple wildflowers grow with long and dark stems, their buds dispersing in different directions from the top, like poufy hair or a chandelier.