Photo of the month

The third floor has already been condemned by the property inspectors, but the bottom two floors are standing proud as Ben poses with his house of cards on a slow Sunday afternoon. Photo by Glenn.

March 2007

We showed you what they looked like at night in last month's newsletter. Here's how the blossoms of our ornamental plum appeared in the daylight of Feb. 27. Photo by Glenn.

Ben tries to perfect his construction techniques while building a card house March 10. Photo by Glenn.

Dad offers some pointers as Ben prepares to take his first tour of the front yard with the lawn mower. We weren't making him mow; he asked to. Photo by Roni.

No, this isn't last year's photo. Yes, the mourning doves have built yet another nest in the planter basket hanging from our patio gazebo. We're assuming it's the same dove. Photo by Glenn.

Our wisteria tree produced a solid crop of blossoms this spring. They don't last long, unfortunately. Here are the buds just a few days into their bloom cycle, March 14. Photo by Glenn.

Spring time is weeding time. Roni goes to work on the overgrown Summer's Garden, which is what we call the circle where we built our fountain last fall. Photo by Glenn.

Here's a closer look at those wisteria blossoms we showed you above. These were shot March 15. Too bad you can't smell them. Photo by Glenn.

Roni's done a thorough weeding job, as always, and now we've got the fountain going for the first time since last fall. Summer looks on. Photo by Glenn.

March 17 was opening night at the Antioch Speedway. There was a huge crowd on hand. Here is one of the heat races in the dirt modified division. Photo by Glenn.

Bill Wallace leads defending state champ Keith Brown Sr. out of turn two. Photo by Glenn.

The 360 winged sprints are back at the speedway this year. David Press, in the 41, has driven in a number of divisions and debuts in this one for 2007. Photo by Glenn.

This would have been an awesome feature if all these drivers were on track at once for a race. Actually, it was the start of a tribute to John Soares Sr., the father of the track promoter, who died the previous weekend. Photo by Glenn.

Roni discovers a new way to snuff out the candles on her ice cream cake — just laugh them out. Did you make a wish first? Photo by Glenn.

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Looking back for the 19th time

March 26, 2007

It was 19 years ago today that we took our vows of matrimony and established a new limb on the Gehlke family tree. Looking back tonight over a dinner of gorgonzola chicken and rattlesnake pasta at the Uno's Chicago Style Grill in Antioch, it seems hard to believe how fast the intervening years have sailed past. Yet here we are. East Contra Costa County isn't the same dusty country community we moved to in 1989. Highway 4, that two-lane umbilical cord that connects our communities to the Bay Area beyond, has become clogged with traffic as our rural lands disappear in a haze of construction. Fields of hay and cattle, orchards laden with almonds, peaches and apples, rolling hills of wild mustard and windblown grass have given way to a carpet of new homes and businesses that have bloated our communities' populations to 10 times their size of two decades ago. Welcome to suburbia.

And things we used to look back on and say, "I remember when that happened 20 years ago..." we now look back on and say, "I remember when that happened almost 40 years ago...!" Guess it's the only proof you need that you're getting older. That and when your friends' jaws drop when you tell them how long you've been married. We aren't exactly museum pieces yet, but sometimes you can't help but feel the years sneaking up from behind.

That's always the way March is around here. Maybe it's our own form of March Madness, as we celebrate wedding memories, Roni's birthday, and the arrival of spring — all in the space of one week.

The spring thing sort of takes care of itself. Not like you can base its arrival on the calendar alone. You just sort of feel it in the air. You wake up one morning and look out your bedroom window to the warmth of the sun and the activities of the birds and insects and you kind of know winter is over. Not like there won't be any more rain, because we've had plenty of that lately. It's the time change. It's the spike in gas prices as Monday-through-Friday road ragers take to traveling on the weekends as well. It's the opportunity to go outdoors and the desire to accomplish something in the yard while there. It's that innate sense you get that the seasons are changing and it's time to investigate what's happening.

Our "spring" began March 14, which was just such a day as the one described above. We threw open the patio door and stepped out into the yard to get our first real look at what winter's wrath had left behind. All the weeds we had removed last October to make way for the planter box where we installed our water fountain have returned with a vengeance. The tallest weeds come up to our waists in places, which isn't a good thing if you want to see the flowers or base of the trees, which we do. In the fountain planter, which we call "Summer's Garden" for the concrete statue that stands to the righthand side, the weeds had overgrown the thyme and carpet roses we planted there nearly six months ago. Roni had been itching to tackle the weeds, so on this morning she couldn't help herself once she plucked a couple of the more obnoxious ones; she just kept pulling until the job was finished.

After the weeding was finished, Glenn washed out the dirt and sand from the fountain basin and then we filled it and turned it on for the first time in a few months. The pump still worked, which was a good sign. Over the next couple of days, however, we noticed that the fountain wasn't flowing as well as it had when new, and we decided that the pump's filter had likely become clogged from all the dirt still in the water. Cleaning the filter is an easy enough task, but getting to the pump, which is packed tightly into the base of the fountain, is another matter. We'll probably let the fountain go dry in a few days and then attempt the cleaning.

Pump clogs aside, it was nice to have the fountain running again, so we took advantage of it over the next few days to park ourselves in the resin lounge chairs we keep nearby and just enjoyed the sounds of the burbling water beneath the shade of our awakening wisteria tree. It's not a tree, technically, but being the vigorous grower it has been for the last five years, it has reached the point where the trunk is almost tree-thick. This month it rewarded us as it always does in March with a showy display of light purple blossoms, the scent of which easily finds its way indoors in a gentle breeze. The ants and bees seem especially attracted to the flowers. As we sit in our chairs we hear the occasional drone of foraging bumble bees — which Glenn calls bumble buzzards because of their immense size — passing overhead. They leave us pretty much alone, so we leave them alone. There's enough yard for all of us to enjoy.

Ben has taken to playing on the patio most afternoons while he is home from school on spring break. Since we took down half of the spa gazebo last July there is plenty of space to build fortresses and act out scenes from his favorite video games, still leaving the other hald of the patio to hold our picnic table and patio swing. That is the side where we have a half dozen wind chimes and other wind toys hanging from our "no-saw" gazebo that Glenn built in July 2005, so named because he never used a saw in its construction. The gazebo is also where Roni placed a hanging planter basket last year with the goal of putting a plant into it. But before she could do so, a couple of mourning doves built their nest in the basket.

Maybe those doves have homing pigeon instincts, because late last month they returned and began building a new nest in the basket. A couple of eggs showed up in mid-March, and now we watch each day as the mama dove (or is it the papa? We don't know for sure) guards the nest around the clock. It was especially interesting to watch the other day when we got a fairly heavy rain storm and the dove flattened itself against the nest while the water pelted down. Be thankful you have a roof to keep you dry.

Anyhow, there is a lot of work to do in the yard as always. And as always, we haven't gotten around to doing much of it. Probably won't anytime soon. For now, it's enough just to be able to go outdoors and soak up a few rays of spring sunshine and watch nature do its thing.

We opened this newsletter talking about our wedding anniversary. March is also when we celebrate Roni's birthday, and we usually wrap the two days into a four-day weekend. Some years we have traveled, but lately we've been content just to relax at home doing the things we each love to do. For Roni, that usually means curling up with a book or several and reading in her favorite chair. As part of her birthday present this year we gave her a massive collection of e-books that might keep her busy until June. Her current interest is romantic vampire tales. Fun stuff. She's had the laptop fired up the past few days exploring the collection, looking for inspiration as she prepares to author her own vampish tale.

That's one of her goals this year — to send one of her many manuscripts off to a publisher. Lots of successful romance writers didn't get their start until they were in their late 40s or even 50s, so we look at that and say it's never too late to embark on a new career. Who knows, one of these days you may be reading this newsletter to find out the dates of her next book signing tour!

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Monday, April 23, 2007 at 13:23 hrs.

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