lulu, hillsider companion

lulu, hillsider companion

Monday, August 17, 2015

California burning, but getting better (we think), foreign readers, Boeger 2012 Barbera is perfect, and Mt. Shasta as home base to Lemurian survivors (?)...

Yep. fires are pretty much everywhere you turn; so many, in fact, that the no-good environment-destroying asshole illegal marijuana cultivators can hardly breathe up there in the national forests while they're defiling our countryside, but what the hell,they've got to make a living, too. Right?

But, putting them aside, we are still on fire pretty much all over our state, but most particularly here in the far north end of the valley. Poor Trinity County is catching the most hell at present, with more than 40 individual wildfires (most caused by dry lightning in the mountains) burning, most of which are now classed as elements of fire complexes. The Fork Complex. located due west of us +- 45 miles near the mountain community of Hayfork, is burning slightly more than 34.000 acres now and is still only 55% contained after a month; the Route and South complexes, near the little town of Hyampom, together total 49,000 acres and are both at roughly 35% containment; the River Complex, in far western Trinity wilderness, is now burning 41,000 acres, having grown another 2,280 acres overnight, and is still only 18% contained, according to CalFire. These are most critical to us here in Shasta County because they're nearest, but they're only the tip of the proverbial iceberg: all-in we've got more than 145,000 acres burning here in the North State at present, while our friends and neighbors to the south, southwest, and east of us are battling their own blazes, and north of us in Oregon they've got a few of their own to deal with. Happy summer! Merry drought! At any rate, the several thousand firefighters in our part of the state are doing a hell of a job keeping the monsters away from homes and people, with fewer than 200 structures having burned so far, at least here in the north, and no more than a dozen or so injuries thus far. Unfortunately, 2 firefighters have died to date. They need a break or two, but there's nothing on the scope at present.

While we're on the subject of fires and firefighters, I do want to take a minute to vent my total disgust with the new breed of morons we're suddenly seeing flying their pieces-of-crap drones into fire areas and subsequently causing the grounding of helicopters and air tankers working in support of the ground crews due to the very real hazard these shit-for-brains clowns pose to the safety of the flight crews. Already this season, and I only know about California, there have been more than 20 drones spotted by air crews flying fire support, some within fewer than 100 feet in proximity, causing at least 8 groundings of badly-needed tankers and helicopters while they wait for the bozos to fly out of the area. This is criminal activity, plain and simple, and has got to be stopped and people sent to jail; the problem is locating these ignorant asses and apprehending them, since they are likely miles away from the scene of their crimes, and difficult to identify. The public is beginning to respond to the appeals of help from law enforcement agencies, and several have been turned in and arrested. Hopefully this trend will continue and expand before someone is killed when a $150 piece of junk flies into a tail rotor or goes through a windshield. Just sayin'...

Okay, moving a matter of curiosity, we would be interested to know what it is in these posts that has attracted the attention of our several foreign readers. We know that we have more or less regular viewers in the UK, France, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Portugal, Israel, and Italy, as well as an occasional visitor from the Philippines, and we're very pleased about it. But we also are very interested in knowing more about you, so if you would reply and tell us something about yourselves we would be grateful.

I know that I've spent a considerable amount of time during the last several months commenting on wines from both Boeger and New Clairvaux wineries, but you should know that that's probably not going to stop soon. The reason is simple: almost across the board both produce wines that are consistently excellent and very fairly priced. What more do you want? Especially those of you working to put together interesting by-the-glass programs for members and guests who are again beginning to pay closer attention to the right-hand side of the list. And, to that subject, just another word to the wise: The Boeger 2012 Barbera, which we've had our fair share of this year, was just tasted again (not tasted, actually, but enthusiastically drunk down with a fat, greasy Turri grass-fed beef hamburger) and is at present absolutely perfectly ready, at least to my palate. I don't know if  Greg Boeger agrees with me, and it doesn't really matter since it's such a subjective thing to debate, but he was right when he nudged me toward the 2012 as the 2011 began to disappear. This  has got to be one of the half-dozen best red wine buys on the shelves today, and I recommend that you get some for both yourself and your wine lists before it disappears like the '11. Greg, how's '13? Strangely, that's always been a lucky number for me...

And so, to close another one out, just a short note re Mt. Shasta and its connection to Lemuria. (Hard to believe that I'm even writing this, actually.) As I wrote a few weeks back, I'velost my mind and have begun searching around various sources for published material regarding the various legends and tales linking the mountain with the strange and the unusual, especially its supposed role as refuge of one of the last known colonies of survivors of Lemuria. I found several books listed with various ebay o/p and rare booksellers and, after doing a very modest amount of research, bought a couple. One of those, "Lemuria - The Lost Continent of the Pacific", published by the Rosicrucian Press in the 1930s (I know, puzzled the hell out of me, too) and subtitled "The Mystery People of Mt. Shasta" is quite an adventure. The author, one Wishar S. Cerve, which turns out to be a pseudonym for the anthropologist H. Spencer Lewis, tells a good tale, and makes a great number of wild (and unsupported) claims in presenting his case, such as it is. And, apparently, there is a fairly large number of believers scattered around the world, some of whom continue to present their position online on a persistent basis. It's an interesting phenomenon. I'll re-read Wishar's book when I get the time.

Okay, that's it for now...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Images (maybe) of China fire near Happy Valley...

These are from the Redding Record Searchlight;s staff. China fire is pretty much contained at present, which is timely because it has allowed many of these firecrews to move to the Trinity fires which now are burning better than 57,000 acres about 60 or so miles up the road. I think these are all CalFire people.

I'll try to get some images from the Rocky fire up later today; it has turned into a monster that is now creating its own weather system and doing pretty much what it wants to do. For anyone really interested in excellent fire photo coverage, I recommend you go to the LA Times' site and check out the portfolio their staff photographer Genaro Molina has put together in the past week of the Rocky fire and the folks fighting it, as well as some of those who have been driven out of their homes. Pretty great work.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Trinity fires double in area overnight, more dry lightning in forecast, and drought closes one of America;s great golf courses...

Okay, forget everything I told you yesterday concerning fire acreage in the Trinity Alps area; all those fires doubled in size overnight due to the tinderbox conditions and the fact that many of the individual fires are so remote that fire crews can't reach them at all,meaning that helicopters and air tankers are the sole means of fighting their spread. Several of the fires burning in the Hayfork/Hyampom areas have merged, creating new complexes that require complete re-evaluations of the firefighters' tactics and strategies. And, to top it all off, the Rocky fire, in Lake County, has turned into a true monster well over 40,000 acres all on its own, and is still nowhere near contained. It will likely be much larger by this time tomorrow. Not sure how many structures have burned to date, but here in the far North State the number of homes that have gone up is somewhere near 50 at present. I saw my first out-of-state commercial firefighting vehicles this afternoon, heading west on Hwy 299 toward the Trinity fires, probably Hayfork, a company called "Firestormers" with Oregon plates on their trucks. Not a good sign.

I just learned that Stevinson Ranch Golf Club closed its gates a couple of weeks ago due to a lack of irrigation water. The Stevinson family, almond farmers in the Turlock area for several generations, who built the course in the '90s with the assistance of the late architect John Harbottle, felt it was no longer a viable business model given the expense of acquiring water, and that they were far better off refocusing on their core farming. Don't know if there's any chance it will be brought back to life at some pint in the future, should the drought ever break, but I, along with thousands of others, truly hope that could happen. The course was a perennial presence on every "Best of..." American golf facilities listing almost from the day it opened, and the resort was first class, as well. We'll miss it.

Good night, and more soon...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Golf in the West deals with the drought, Norcal on fire, and Cooper Vineyards' superb 2012 Primitivo

As with most crises, the drought is bringing out the best and the worst in folks, including those of us who are the stewards of golf in the West. I'm pleased to say that, so far as I have seen thus far, golf is conducting itself pretty well, with very few embarrassments having come to the surface as of yet.
According to the National Golf Foundation, whose numbers and data I've always found reliable, there are approximately 15,500 golf courses in the US; of those, approximately 900 of them reside in California. That sounds like a bunch of golf holes, and it is; when you start talking about water usage, however, the data can be staggering to the uninitiated.

In at least one previous post I began looking at the potential ramifications for golf that Governor Jerry's conservation mandate might bring, and noted that even though the golf industry has been at the leading edge of the issue for a number of years, particularly the USGA's Green Section, golf courses by their very nature are going to require a lot of water, no matter how hard they try or what they do. I also pointed out that a number of courses, both private and public, had taken steps to reduce their impact on demand for potable water, taking tens of thousands of acres of land off the irrigation grids, carefully fine-tuning and better-managing their irrigation systems, converting to the use of recycled (gray) water for irrigation purposes, and replacing thirsty turf cultivars with drought-tolerant varieties that can thrive under more extreme conditions. Most superintendents are conservationists by nature, and work hard to be good stewards of the land in their care while still providing high quality playing conditions, which is the final and most critical factor by which their job performance will be judged by the folks who decide whether or not they get to keep those jobs.

All that being said, the fact is that every one of those golf courses, all 900 of them, require a lot of water nearly each and every day. It is not unusual, particularly during spring and summer, for the average 18 hole course with, say, 80- 100 acres under irrigation, to pump 800,000 - 1,000,000 gallons a day, Some a little less, but some significantly more, depending on location, cultivars being managed, and a host of other factors. So, needless to say, they get a lot of scrutiny from neighbors and assorted activists and other interested parties, and they know and understand why.

Judging by the information we're seeing in print from reputable sources thus far it seems that the industry as a whole is trying very hard to comply with the Governor's directives. Some more than others, of course. My personal experience, playing a number of different courses here in the North State, is that of seeing a great deal of dry, dusty, browned-out areas (especially practice areas and large tracts of rough) that were green and vigorous just a year ago; tees and greens, of course, have to be maintained at all costs, but almost everything else seems to be under the microscope at this point. We'll see how things develop as the drought deepens. The upside is that we're beginning to hear rumblings from weather services that we may be seeing a stronger-than-originally-believed El Nino system building, and that a very wet winter could be in our future. Let's hope.

As of today fires are burning all across Northern California: here close to home, in Shasta, Trinity, Lake, Humboldt, and Napa counties in particular, there are more than 70,000 acres in flames at this moment, distributed among some 90 separate fires and fire complexes, give or take. The Rocky fire, in Lake County, accounts for approximately 22,000 of those acres, and as of right now is only 15% contained; the China complex, comprised of the Happy and China fires, in the Shasta County Happy Valley community and its surrounds, has been brought under control, but wreaked significant havoc on the area just to the south and west of us; in Trinity County the mountain communities of Hayfork, Hyampom. Denny, and several smaller towns were being evacuated this afternoon as the Rail and Barker fires burned around them (totaling 1700 acres give or take), and the River, Fork, and Mad River complexes burned above and below those infernos, with no sign of containment. The Wragg fire, near Lake Berryessa in Napa County, is still burning, as well, and was at 8,000 acres +- the last time we checked, but was at 90% containment at the time. More thunderstorms carrying dry lightning are expected tonight and tomorrow in the mountains, so who knows what happens next? What we do know is that resources are stretched about as thin as they can go: CalFire, BLM/Forestry Service, county and local fire departments, and local volunteer fire departments are all fully mobilized, and have been for almost two full weeks, 24/7. Governor Jerry has called out the National Guard to provide additional manpower, but their usefulness, while appreciated, will be limited due to the lack of training specific to the problem. Forest Service has lost one firefighter so far. We just need a break: some moisture (rain, in particular) is critical, as is the need for folks to use their heads when outdoors in fire-prone surroundings. Bottom line, though, is thanks to the firefighters, one and all, for what you're doing, and may the Lord watch over all of you.

To close on a happier note, I wanted to give you all a heads-up regarding Cooper Vineyards' 2012 Primitivo Tesoro, Estate Bottled, Amador County. I was  touted on this wine by the proprietor of The Wine Spot, a friendly little wine bar in the old downtown area of Eureka we discovered on our last trip, and where we spent several hours tasting and just listening to locals gossip on a slow afternoon. The woman behind the bar turned out to be the daughter of the owners, and a character of the first magnitude. We spent a significant amount of time fascinated by her reminiscences of her days as a timber driver for a logging company (I swear), as well as tasting a few of her recommendations, this Primitivo among them, and I will always be grateful for that. The wine is a classic example of the varietal (which is rarely seen, even here in wine country): deeply crimson-colored. with a rich and focused bouquet of ripe blue-and blackberries, tar, and citrus peel, it literally explodes out of the glass; very rich and rounded fruit flavors almost attack the palate, with strawberries, dried blueberries, sage, ginger, and vanilla coming and going as it settles in your mouth. The finish is very long, and very pleasant, and you're not happy when the bottle is done, unless you happen to have another, which I don't. I'm not even sure this wine is available except at the winery and to select accounts; I can't find it listed on their website, but I plan to call and inquire (beg) if it is to be had. I paid $40 for the bottle I bought at Wine Spot which seems entirely reasonable now that I no longer have it, and would gladly pay that for a few more. I recommend that those of you interested in esoteric and/or exotic varietals check the Cooper website for your selves; my guess is that given their success with htis wine, there are a number of others well worth trying. I certainly intend to do so.

More soon...