Posted July 29 2016 by Kerry McFall
The golden fields of this small ranch look as velvety soft as a yellow lab’s ear, but the grass is so dry and brittle that it crunches with every step. When the wind comes up it feels like somebody left the oven door open. We’re in Clements, CA for a few days.
Speaking of soft ears, there does happen to be a yellow lab here, and a golden retriever, but since this is an AirBnB, somebody else worries about taking care of them. We get to play with them and they keep us company, along with two rowdy white kittens, dozens of wild bunnies, a billion toads and lizards, and five clever roosters who masqueraded as hens until puberty caught up with them earlier this week… the crowing is still pretty rough around the edges, but there can no longer be any doubt, fellas.
We’ve done a bit of exploring in “old towns” in NorCal, which all look so familiar: I expect some cowboy film star from the 1960’s to come jangling down the street in boots and spurs. Point Richmond, Sacramento, Folsom, Sutter Creek; they all have a bunch of the original 1800’s era buildings. Old buildings don’t seem so miraculous in Europe, where most were made of stone or brick and clay tiles. But many of these are wood, and it amazes me that they have survived fires, bugs, earthquakes, and vandals to stand another decade at least. Many of the buildings have been re-purposed with varying degrees of success into tacky Christmas outlets, candy stores, visitor centers, wine shops, art galleries etc. But a few, like the Monte Verde General Merchant store in Sutter Creek, survive nearly intact and can be toured by appointment… which we didn’t learn about until it was time for us to leave, but if you’re ever in the neighborhood, contact www.suttercreek.org for more info. Or drop by the visitor center early in your visit, where you might get to meet Ginger the Doorbell Dog and her lovely owner.
Perspective continues to elude me, but drawing these old streets is a fun exercise in puzzling which roofline ends where. I spent two hours on the balcony of the Sutter Hotel with my Happy Hour Chardonnay, where fans whirred and misters spritzed, to do this painting. It was 107 degrees down in the street, but probably a cool 99 upstairs. It’s hard to stop once I get going – kind of a zen thing.
And on the topic of Chardonnay, it’s not really news that grapes are the new gold. We have been amazed at the lush greens here in the vineyards, in high contrast to the dry grasses and dusty oaks on the hills above. Vintners irrigate here from wells – I wonder how the water tables are doing…? I realize how little I know about such things. Look out Google, here I come!