The sun blazes overhead, searing my skin; It’s August in Lake County, and the olive trees soak it up. Lianne and Richard Campodonico of Campodonico Olive Oil walk next to me, well-covered from the bright yellow glare of the sky. “They’re more like bushes than trees,” Rich says, looking down the row of various-sized olive trees. “Look at that one!” He points towards a fifteen-foot-tall shrub of an olive.“We planted them in blocks,” he continues. “One quarter, the first year, one quarter the second year. Then we had a hard winter that killed 40% of the trees.” He shows me a tree springing out of a broken stump. “Several of them grew back, like this one, but we had to get more.”
LAKE COUNTY BUSINESSES
Simon Avery of Peace and Plenty Farm turns his head sideways, looking at the saffron plants stretching down several rows. It’s a cold day, and clouds shroud the top of Mt. Konocti, scudding quickly across the sky. He shudders as a chill wind whips across the fields. “It’s a mile walk if you take all the rows,” he tells me, hunching his shoulders inward to keep warm. His cracked, farmer’s hands rub against his shirt. “And you’re bent over like this,” Melinda Price demonstrates, her tall form reaching down past her knees, her blonde hair pulled back into a bun. “All day. Picking the flowers.” “Sometimes I finish picking all the rows, only to see more flowers appear, and I have to do it all over.” Simon’s eyes glaze over, recalling the days and days of harvesting.
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.
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.
“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.”
Hidden Valley Lake is located in the southern part of Lake County where residents can enjoy more than a dozen amenities in and around the 102-acre lake including a semi-private 18-hole championship golf course and modern camping facilities. The Hidden Valley Lake Association supports more than 100 jobs in hospitality, private security, landscape maintenance, finance and other industries.
While unloading disposable surgical masks and hand sanitizers for Middletown area small businesses and nonprofits recently, we asked Chanele Hellwege why she started her shipping, packing and vehicle registration business on Hwy 175 in Middletown, she responded, “See a need, fill a need.” And that is how Middletown Mail and More got started.
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.
Phil Harris charges into the room, his presence filled with life and energy. He’s like a giant bear, ready to bowl everyone over with exuberance, wit, and humor.