Photo of the month

The Gehlke Bros. get crazy during an evening walk July 19 on the old DuPont property in Oakley. Glenn's brother Sean was visiting during the warm weekend, and getting out for the walk was a great way to beat the heat. Photo by Glenn.

August 2009

A weather system made for a colorful sunset over Oakley the evening of July 11. These same clouds were good for some thunder and lightning. Photo by Glenn.

Roni takes advantage of the easy access along the Big Break Trail to pick a few ripe wild blackberries July 12. The berries are at their peak around the end of July and early August. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn, Sean and Ben get nutty for the camera on their evening walk near the DuPont rail siding. The graffiti covered railcars made for a colorful backdrop. Photo by Glenn.

This was how our garbage company notified us that our trash toter had been in the wrong spot by the curb for the past 18 years. We know that postage is too expensive to send letters in the mail anymore, but leaving ransom notes affixed to the lid with rocks from your neighbor's median strip seems a bit tacky. Photo by Glenn.

Ben's friend Haleigh joined us for our annual trip to the Delta Pear Fair in Courtland on July 26. They smile for the camera inside the festival's history exhibit. Photo by Glenn.

One of the many old-time photos on display at the Pear Fair, this one of the Wilson sisters dates to the early 20th century. Photo by Glenn.

Roni collects her purchase from a booth selling handmade soaps, one of the many vendors at the Pear Fair. Photo by Glenn.

A festival just isn't a festival without great food. The Lockeford Sausage booth has been a staple at events we have attended for more than 20 years. Roni shows off her lunch, complete with sauer kraut and jalapeño relish... Photo by Glenn.

...And here's Roni demonstrating the proper way to eat a Lockeford sausage... Photo by Glenn.

...And here's Roni saying enough! Let me eat in peace!... Photo by Glenn.

...The power of a Lockeford sausage can't be described in mere words, but it does seem to have a mesmerizing effect on those who purchase one. Photo by Roni.

We've been going to the Pear Fair for 22 years and had never before stopped to get a good look at the town's namesake courthouse. There's not much to see on the inside, but it sure looks stately from the outside. Photo by Glenn.

The "Pear-ade" makes its way down Washington Avenue. The Pear Blossoms precede the candidates for Pear Fair Queen. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn does double duty as photographer and videographer during the Pear-ade. Photo by Roni.

Glenn poses for a photo with the Pear Lady, who is as close to a celebrity as you'll find in Courtland. Photo by Roni.

Roni, Haleigh and Ben have had a great day at the Pear Fair. We're all pretty exhausted from the 100-plus degree heat. Photo by Glenn.

We missed out on pear bread last year, so this year we got smart and bought a loaf from the Lions Club booth early in the day. Less than an hour later, the dreaded "sold out" sign made its appearance. Photo by Glenn.

We also scored one of the very popular pear pies, making this year's annual visit to the Pear Fair a complete success. Photo by Glenn.

This volunteer with the Homeless Animals Response Program (HARP) has her arms full with three kittens up for adoption. We were attending HARP's adoption event in Pittsburg on July 25. As much as these kitties were adorable, we didn't bring one home... Photo by Roni.

...As you can see, we already have our hands quite full with our own full-grown felines. It isn't often you'll see Eevee allowing himself to be held by Glenn. Photo by Roni.

Roni has reason to smile after winning all of these books — some 30 of them — through a contest on Twitter. Mostly romances, the books are all autographed by their authors. Photo by Glenn.

One of our favorite summer traditions is occasionally skipping a weekend dinner and going out for ice cream at one of the many ice cream joints near home. Aug. 15 found us waiting at the Antioch Dairy Queen, which has changed little in the past 40 years. Photo by Glenn.

Ben and Roni wait patiently — mostly patiently — for our ice cream on the picnic tables outside the DQ. Photo by Glenn.

We always enjoy hearing from our visitors. We welcome your comments.

How does our garden grow? We don't know

August 25, 2009

We spent a couple of hours in the backyard last Sunday, and it was like coming home at the end of a long summer vacation to find out how your plants have fared. Some things hold up well in blistering heat with little attention, while others seem to wilt if you don’t check in on them every hour or so. If only we had a long vacation to as an excuse for why our weed-filled yard looks so terrible lately.

We’ve all become quite adept at tending to the cute animated vegetables in online games such as Farm Town, Farm Pals and Farmville, but unlike the virtual world, real plants that haven’t been tended to for days on end don’t bounce back quite so easily just by sprinkling them with the garden hose. Case in point: Roni’s tomato garden. At this point last year we were swimming in tomatoes. Roni was harvesting them by the bowlful every other day and we couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. This year, sadly, the vines are all shriveled and those that did manage to produce a fruit or two were quickly attacked by roving raccoons. The fuchsias we planted a few months ago in Spring’s Garden have all withered and died, except for one that has two tiny green leaves left on its otherwise bare stalk. The poppies that are always so abundant in April have long since lost their blooms, leaving only their brown skeletons behind.

The one thing that seems to be doing well in our yard is weeds. Winter’s Garden was being overrun by them before Glenn pulled them all Sunday. We can’t get enough water to our carpet roses, but the weeds have more than enough to thrive. The sandbur that we have been trying for two years to eliminate are going to seed again in the one or two spots in the yard where we have missed yanking out the seedlings. And now we are seeing the annual start of the tumbleweed and wild sage crops. At least the sage smells nice when you touch it, but it is sticky and hard to pull out without breaking it off at the root.

Our other gardening frustration is the gopher, which for the first time somehow defeated one of the underground cages we use to protect some of our front yard roses. We came home one afternoon to find a rose that had been green and healthy a couple of days earlier yellowing and looking wilted. A quick check around its base found a large gopher mound. The cage was supposed to protect the root ball, so unless the wire rusted out and failed to do its job, then the gopher found a way around it. Sneaky little devil.

We’ve been lamenting that we haven’t spent nearly enough time outdoors this summer, so it is always nice to have an activity that gets us out in the sunshine. We found just that in our annual trip to the Delta Pear Fair in Courtland on July 26. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been attending the Pear Fair without fail since 1988. The fresh pear pie and the small town atmosphere must keep luring us back, because the last Sunday of every July we find ourselves making the hourlong trek up Highway 160, ready to create a new set of pleasant memories.

This year was a first in that it wasn’t just the three of us; we let Ben bring along his friend Haleigh so that he would have someone to hang out with at the fair rather than waiting on Mom and Dad to look at the craft booths and take pictures, something that isn’t exactly his cup of tea. We picked Haleigh up from her dad’s house in Brentwood and got to the fair right before 11. The place was unusually packed because the festival had moved its “Pear-ade” to 1 p.m., and most visitors come just before the event to watch it and leave immediately after.

We made our first stop the history exhibit so we could pick up our commemorative collector pins and look at the familiar displays of old-time photos, then we let Ben and Haleigh wander off together to look at the craft and game booths while we strolled the park at our leisure. We gave Ben $20 and told him not to spend it all in one place.

Maybe it had something to do with more people looking for local entertainment in a tough economy, or with the fact that Huell Howser devoted a segment of his “California’s Gold” television show to it, but the fair was more packed than we’d ever seen it. We’d had to park in a far corner of the dirt field near the park, and on our walk to the entrance we passed several people coming out with bakery boxes containing whole pies. We knew that if we wanted one we’d have to get it soon. So our next stop was the pie booth where we shelled out $12 for what we dare say is some of the best pear pie you’ll ever taste. It was a good thing we did, too, because barely an hour later the booth had sold out of every one of its 460 pies. We tucked our purchase in the trunk of Glenn’s car and went about checking out the rest of the festival.

Next stop was the craft booths. Roni bought a bar of scented glycerin soap and Glenn picked up some hand-crafted refrigerator magnets, both from vendors we’d grown used to seeing at the fair year after year. Roni managed to fill a bag with our craft purchases and a loaf of pear bread bought from the Lions Club booth. Eventually we decided it was time for another run to the car, so Glenn dropped off the bag of stuff while Roni waited in line at the Lockeford Sausage Company booth to buy a couple of sausage sandwiches for us. Glenn returned from the parking lot venture just as she was placing our order. It felt odd not buying lunch for Ben as well, but he and Haleigh had already eaten. We ate our sandwiches while listening to a band butchering classic rock songs. As the lead singer proclaimed, “The more you drink, the better we sound.” It was a blistering 100 degrees outdoors, so it was nice to have the shade of the tent in front of the concert stage for a few minutes.

Around 1 p.m. we staked out our spot on Primasing and Washington avenues to watch the usual procession of fire trucks, antique cars and fair princesses make their way to the parade review stand. There are only three main streets in Courtland, and it takes the parade barely 15 minutes to travel two of them. By the time it was over, Ben and Haleigh had hooked back up with us and we all went over to the carnival area to check out the car show and buy shaved ice. The ice was just what we all needed to beat the heat. Before heading home we stopped back at the history exhibit to buy a panorama photo of the Courtland waterfront that we plan to frame, then Glenn posed for a photo with the Pear Lady all dressed up in her pear costume.

The only downer came when it was time to go home. Everyone decided to head for the exit about the same time we did, around 2:15, and there was an ugly traffic jam trying to leave. The young kids the fair had handling the parking weren’t able to control the four lines of cars converging on the single exit line. We wound up spending 45 minutes in Glenn’s hot car, air conditioner blasting, from the time we joined the queue to the point at which we turned onto Highway 160 for home. Parking aside, all four of us agreed it had been a great day, despite the heat.

Our only other big “family” excursions this past month have been back-to-school shopping, trips to the grocery store, and a weekend evening in which we skipped dinner in favor of buying ice cream reats from the Dairy Queen in Antioch. We also finally got to use our vouchers for a free grilled chicken meal from KFC — the same promotion that the restaurant had to rethink after Oprah blabbed about it on TV and caused a stampede of folks eager to get their free chicken. We decided to jump through all the hoops of printing out the company’s coupons and filling out request forms and mailing them in by the postal deadline. Then we nearly forgot about them after the vouchers arrived in the mail, because they could only be redeemed over the final two weeks of August. The chicken was good, but certainly not worth a three-month wait.

Ben started back to school July 28, nearly a full month before most of the schools on our side of Contra Costa County started back. He wasn’t thrilled to be headed back so soon, but he’ll enjoy some breaks coming up in the weeks ahead while the other kids are still in class. For now, he’s getting used to being a sophomore and still amazed at how young all the freshmen look.

Roni has been busy with her online activities. Her daily interactions with the community of romance authors paid dividends recently when she entered a contest of the social networking site Twitter. She won the contest, and the prize was a collection of books autographed during the recent Romance Writers of America convention. Roni thought it would be just a handful of titles, but apparently the author who promoted the contest got so into it that, by the time she was done, she needed a large box to send everything through the mail. Roni couldn’t believe it when the box arrived and she opened it to find around 30 signed paperbacks, including some by the genre’s most popular writers. She has been happily reading ever since.

The next thing on the horizon is the SacAnime convention in Sacramento, which Ben and his friends have been anticipating since the last convention in early January. Ben wants to go dressed as Kurogane from the “Tsubasa Chronicle” series of Japanese manga books, so Roni has been working on ideas for his costume, which she is making by hand using materials from the fabric and craft stores using reference photos found on the Internet. The costume is coming together nicely. We hope to have photos to share next month. Until then, time to go in search of new adventures. See you in September.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 17:33 hrs.

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