It's almost been one year since the first of two major fires in Lake County. An impassioned newly released grassroots Valley Fire Song is the Valley community's way of thanking the firefighters, police and workers who fought to save their homes, schools and businesses. It really does share the spirit and tenacity of Valley residents.
Click here for the YouTube Video that drives listeners to the group's website - valleyfiresong.org to donate funds directly to local groups to help repair the lives of those impacted.
"I think of the video as Les Misérables meets We Are the World," says writer/producer Robert Battaile. "It's real life drama and current events. We're raising morale and hopefully some funds as well." Special Thanks to video provided by Kim Ringeisen (Flying Monkey Photography) and the amazing 'dash cam' footage from the Lake County Sheriff's Dept.
"Fortunately, we got a great group with excellent voices and attitudes all working for the cause," says Robert. "Calpine Visitor Center in Middletown was the place. After a night of rehearsal and recording, the dozen singers returned for even more precise vocal dramatizations and then, a couple of hours of "greenscreen" video shooting. A couple of the singers lost everything in the fire. Wardrobe was ‘wear what you were wearing on the day of the event.’ Everyone was heavily impacted."
The music tracks were previously recorded at City of Light Recording Studio in Lakeport with some top local musicians. Robert (acoustic guitars) and his group tank Keith Gaudete, Rich Elliott on drums, Rich Reading on bass, Tom Aiken on keyboard. Later, RB (Calexas Multimedia Prods) did the final mix adding synth guitars, Paul Stambaugh's wiley harmonica, sirens and the SFX sound design for the video. Justin Weis from trakworx undertook the mastering.
"You should listen to the music first," says songwriter Robert. "when you watch the video - the visual images smack you in the face so hard that you'll barely notice the song at all. As I write these notes close to the one-year date, many of us on this record are impacted by the nearby Clayton Fire in Lower Lake just minutes from Middletown, Cobb Mountain and the path of the Valley Fire."
The song once again reminds us of the ever-present danger of fire. Donate if you're able. Middletown Relief Fund (FamilyFire Foundation), Team Lake County, and Lake County Hospice have donate buttons on the song's web site.
Work Ready Apparel launched in early 2015 as a much-needed boutique-style outlet for COTS clients to outfit themselves in clothing, shoes and accessories to present themselves with dignity at back-to-work interviews.
I was delighted to spot original artwork on the walls, including the handsome horses above, painted by my dear friend, fellow Brit, artist, Gail Foulkes.
Most of the people who walk through the door at the appointment-only boutique have little more than the set of clothes on their back, or not much more — whatever fits in a backpack, usually. Imagine the feelings they experience when their case-workers connect them to this vital lifeline for gaining the confidence to walk into an interview?
Clients participate in a series of classes at COTS' Mary Isaak Center in readiness for applying for jobs. During these classes, work-place protocol on dress code is a major factor.
Though the boutique is decked out with beautifully ironed and coordinated work outfits in all styles and sizes, many jobs in the area do not require suits and ties. Jeans and heavy duty clothing are much needed, as are heavy work boots. Sneakers are another hot item.
"Jewelry and bags are extremely popular with women clients," shared Manager, Susan, during a recent tour of the immaculate facilities. Her co-manager, Gisela, shared how one client she outfitted with back to work clothes and a bracelet, said she had never owned any jewelry in her life.
The all-volunteer staff could do with a little more help every now and again, particularly on donation drive days. If you like to sew or you're known for your expert stain-removing techniques, a few hours here and there helping out at Work Ready Apparel would be tremendously well spent. Simply taking in a load of laundry on a regular basis is another option. Contact Indigo Perry, Volunteer Coordinator at COTS, if you're interested. Email email@example.com.
This boutique is not able to accept direct financial donations, but loves nothing more than kind donations of on-trend clothing (please, no shoulder pads) and donations of new packs of women's and men's underwear, boxer briefs, athletic and dress socks, camisoles and leggings.
Many clients are in their early 20s. If you have gently used clothing suitable for young men and women in the workplace (no graphic t-shirts), these items certainly will be put to good use.
Because we're going into fall and winter, summer clothing will soon be stored away. Items suitable for the colder months are what's needed right now.
Drop off times on Friday, September 9th are 11.30 to 1 pm and 4 to 6pm. Work Ready Apparel is not open to the public otherwise. Location is 1694 Corporate Circle, Petaluma 94954. There's plenty of parking and volunteers will be on hand to help you hand over armfuls of items!
I was so impressed by the effort that volunteer managers have put into this special place. What a treasure trove for those who have the strength to take the first steps to rebuilding their lives.
My new book, Fog Valley Winter, Pioneer Heritage, Backroad Rambles & Vintage Recipes is off to the races this August, since rolling off the press and already making its way around the region's most rural spots.
A big thank-you to Susan and Richard Villa (Susan's pictured with me, above) for a perfectly suitable setting amidst the pines, redwoods and Eucalyptus of rustic West Petaluma, at the couple's fledgling event space, the enchanted Spring Hill Gardens.
Early bird British/American contingency! Most half of the lovely people who showed up to hear me read from the book and enjoy each other's afternoon company for a late afternoon escape from the outside world, are fellows from over the pond. There are a lot of us here in Sonoma County.
Spring Hill Gardens is gearing up for an outdoor event season in 2017. I'll share more information when its web site is launched. If you're looking for small event space for future gatherings, feel free to send me an email and I'll connect you with the event maven.
Books are available at B St Mercantile and Free Range Provisions on Fourth Street, in Petaluma, also at Copperfield's Books, Kentucky Street, Petaluma and soon to be at the Petaluma Visitor's Program and the museum as well as a few other key locations.
I decided NOT to put this book on Amazon this fall, as my local partners have been so incredibly supportive of my publishing efforts and I think it's best all around if we support their sales and keep commerce in our community.
Anyone who'd like to order the book from afar may do so directly via Paypal on the book's website by clicking here (or find a button on the sidebar of Southern Sonoma Country Life homepage). I will pop your copy in an envelope, hand address and take it to the post office, where the friendly clerks are always happy to see me with an armful of book packages.
I'm getting to the last few boxes of first book, Fog Valley Crush and expect them to sell out at events over the holiday season. If you haven't read the first, please do, but reading the second is not dependent on the first. I wrote it as a stand-alone, even though it is a companion book.
Thanks to Lesley, Michael and John, next public signing and reading will be at Aqus Cafe at Foundry Wharf at 7pm on Thursday, September 29th. Mark your calendars!
Hot on the heels of the 2016 Olympic Games, Northern California's fittest bunch of folk have their own competitive edge taken care of with games more suited to the farming culture of our region!
Hay bale stacking, Drip-tape jumprope, egg & spoon race, competitive irrigation, Lexicon of Sustainability food label trivia, Farm-fresh pizza topping contest, Hole Lotta Farm-to-School Toss, Synchronized Grazing, T-Post Pounding and other exciting games of skill and strength are amongst the creative and fun roster at the Petaluma Fairgrounds for a September 17th Farmer Olympics.
The Farmer's Guild is an agricultural community founded by farmers for farmers who collaborate toward the economic viability of local agriculture as well as the social networks necessary to attract, cultivate and sustain a new generation ready to work the land while building a healthier food system.
Back in 2011, a handful of young farmers and ranchers convened over dinner to talk shop, trade ideas and share their experiences working to reform our agricultural system from the ground up. New friendships, opportunities and partnerships hard to find in rural areas grew. This dynamic group soon multiplied. Chefs and local food advocates joined the mix, young farmers began arriving from neighboring counties. They soon outgrew the kitchen table and found an ally in FarmsReach, an online resource where farmers connect, share advice, and find the resources they need to succeed. With their tools and support, they extended their mission to new communities across California, uniting an oftentimes disparate movement.
There are ten Guilds across northern California, today. Now a project of Ag Innovations 501c3, they work to maintain a growing network of Guilds by encouraging, inspiring and celebrating the resilience of local agriculture, young and old, large and small, cabbage growers and cattle ranchers alike. Each Guild is unique, served by local communities and partner organizations. The Farmers Guild keeps the wider network connected through events, online social media and by sharing practical resources, farmer to farmer, guild to guild, dependable even in the busiest throes of harvest season.
Petaluma Reader's Theatre is a terrific group of performers, many of whom I know from the several hats they wear in our great, little community! Upcoming pop-up theatrical production Dixie Swim Club sounds like another winner.
"Enduring friendships are at the heart of this endearing and witty comedy where five very different women who met on their college swim team reconnect every year at a beachfront house in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Leaving, husbands, jobs and kids behind these women come to laugh, reminisce and meddle in each other’s lives. With the southern charm of Steel Magnolias and the biting repartee of The Golden Girls, The Dixie Swim Club is a hilarious and often touching tribute to friendships that last a lifetime."
Bookal is a free iOS app launching this fall, born and based in Petaluma. Bookal is a home for book lovers - a social network where readers can connect and share and an easy to use hyperlocal peer-to-peer marketplace.
Everything you might love about Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon and Craigslist, the clever people behind Bookal have simplified, cleaned up and brought under one roof. What you don’t love about these companies, you won't find at Bookal.
Bookal was inspired by founder Ramin Rahimian's wife’s monthly Amazon book orders for her book club. "She was frustrated that she had to wait so long to borrow a book from someone else in her book club, often not having time to finish it," shared Ramin, over a pile of my new books at my first signing of the season, at Marin French Cheese Company, this August.
"She also often opted not to borrow the book from our local library or to go downtown to buy it from our independent bookstore," he said. "I was frustrated, too. I wished she would take advantage of our amazing local bookstore and library. I also thought - there must be an easier and better way for her to get her hands on these very popular books. These bestsellers are out there, on people’s shelves. Let’s get them back in the market and in the hands of those who want them now."
The result was Bookal.
Features and design create a welcoming, engaging, and easy to use social network and marketplace. The app sounds like it will be a great place to get in touch with the only other person who has read your favorite book, even though he or she might be all as far away as New York or London.
On Bookal, your book club will be able to better manage and organize itself. On Bookal, you'll show off your massive library and discover new books to fill it with. With Bookal, you will push one button to buy a book and have it delivered to your door or buy it new from your local bookstore. I'm looking forward to experiencing what it can do for readers, writers and bookstores and other small merchants that sell books.
Intrigued? I'll keep you posted as the app is closer to launch. Otherwise, CLICK HERE to sign yourself up as an early adopter, today.
The Fork, at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is one of my favorite foodie venues in Fog Valley, perched on the edge of the world, overlooking Tomales Bay. Fall farm tours, dinners and exclusive classes have just been announced.
Jump on whichever takes your fancy, fast, as every little happening at this delicious locale sells out so fast. How about Baking with legendary Brickmaiden, hands-on class with Celine Underwood - Friday, November 11th?
Hands-On Instruction in The Fork kitchen is interspersed with a walking farm tour, a focused cheese tasting and a delicious family-style farm-fresh lunch. The day concludes with a bag of treats and a fresh sourdough baguette wrapped for you to take home. 9 am to 4.30 pm.