It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I turned 71 Sunday, which was probably a good decision, but I threw out my back earlier in the week, which definitely was not a good move. You never realize how much use you have for something until you throw it out.

Just standing up is now a pain, and walking is even worse.

Doug Hill, president of the Berkeley City Commons Club, relays a member’s question to me at the end of my talk. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

As it happens, Morton McDonald, who has a home at Duck Cove in Inverness, had invited me to tell the Berkeley City Commons Club what I knew about Synanon from the cult’s days in West Marin. I had agreed to go last Friday but had to strut and fret my hour upon the stage from an overstuffed chair.

I’ve tried to portray my injury as caused by rugged work, telling friends I threw out my back while working with a chainsaw. “What were you cutting?” they ask. “Daisies,” I sheepishly reply. They’re inevitably startled. “No one throws out his back cutting daisies,” they say, “and no one cuts daisies with a chainsaw.”

It’s a long story. Former Point Reyes Light reporter Janine Warner and her husband Dave LaFontaine drove up from Los Angeles for my birthday and are staying for five days. My stepdaughter Kristeli, who is in her last year at New York University, will fly in Tuesday and stay for five days over Thanksgiving.

Vegetation had overgrown the railing along the outdoor steps, and I wanted everyone to be safe when they used the stairs. When I cut four or five dead fronds off a palm and three dead branches off a couple of pines, the chainsaw went right through them. But when I bent over to cut some woody branches from dead sections of two daisy bushes, a muscle spasm locked onto my back with all four feet.

Heating pads, back braces, and a ball-bearing-filled massage machine are helping, and I’ll no doubt recover in a week or two although post-traumatic-stress disorder could be a lingering problem.

I sign a copy of The Light on the Coast for Morton McDonald. The book includes a lengthy section on the paper’s investigation of Synanon, an investigation that led to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

In the “best of times” category, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported by The Point Reyes Light, which I wrote with Jacoba Charles as coauthor, is now in its third printing. The Tomales Regional History Center is the publisher, and the book can be ordered online using the History Center link in the righthand column.

Two blacktails butting heads outside my kitchen window last week. I’d think a deer could easily get an eye put out that way, but I’ve never seen a buck with an eye patch.

Past postings are numbered in the order they went online, with the most recent postings located immediately below the Table of Contents.

To go directly to stories without scrolling, click on the highlighted phrases following the numbers.

Weekly postings are published by Thursday.

384. The Comoros solution for undocumented residents

383. Finding refuge in my surroundings

382. Remembering the past in Point Reyes Station and Tomales

381. Point Reyes Station focuses on helping preschool and preparing for disaster

380. Little Nicasio was a happening place Saturday and Sunday

379. Mowgli taught me to love jungles

378. A Scottish journalist’s observations regarding the vote to remain part of Great Britain

377. Racoons waxing and Tricolored Blackbirds waning plus a mystery in the woods

376. The autumnal equinox is upon us

375. Grito de la Independencia in Point Reyes Station

374. Some Nicasio Reservoir history is seldom seen, and some is seldom recognized

373. Tomales Founders’ Day draws a goodly crowd despite a shorter-than-usual parade

372. It all happened between two vivid dreams

371. A photographic look at signs of life

370. All in one day: displays in Point Reyes Station & Inverness of arts, crafts, & public service

369. A word with you, if you please

368. Sorry I’m late, but here are a bobcat, albino robin, and five fox kits to make up for it

367. Nurturing nature

366. Riding an old narrow-gauge train and modern Amtrak plus driving the ‘Highway to Hell’

365. It was like winning a second Pulitzer Prize

365. Well, would you look at that?

364. Photography, drama, etchings, and paintings worth seeing this summer

363. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade and Saturday’s 4-H Fair draw enthusiastic crowds

362. White House Pool enchanting despite vandalism and poison oak

361. Humor — including blonde and similar jokes — that’s gone through at least 3 countries

360. My deer friends

359. A few of my photos in war and peace from West Marin to Southeast Asia to Central America

358. Animals provide relief from an animalistic world

357. Gala for just-retired popular librarian; preparing for disasters; odd news reports

356. America owes a lot to its weekly newspapers

355. Pining for a couple of old friends

354. Creatures of spring at Mitchell cabin

353. Gallery Route One exhibiting whimsical art with messages from three women

352. Save a spaniel

351. When words fail us

350. With spring 10 days away, late-winter rains give a boost to West Marin flora and fauna

349. A gallery of photos from Point Reyes Light open house, staff reunion, and book readings

348. Misunderstandings and other ‘small’ news plus a big ‘ol party

347. ‘Picturing the Point Reyes Peninsula’ exhibition opens in Jack Mason Museum

346. Readings from ‘The Light on the Coast’ draw crowd to Tomales Regional History Center

345. Jon Langdon’s ‘Beyond Geometry’; Mr. Badger goes a-huntin’; Gypsy cobs cloppin’ downtown

344. Point Reyes Station innkeeper and former jeweler Ann Dick a prolific writer at 87

343. Oldtimer says dams, not homes and ranches, had hurt salmon runs; now it’s the drought

342. Legends of the Celtic harp wow enthusiastic crowd in the Dance Palace

341. A gallery of local-wildlife photos

340. The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

339. The holidays are the time for us in West Marin to start preparing for disasters

338. The last days of fall

337. The Light on the Coast due to gleam this week

336. Using words well and not so well

335. My 70th birthday

334. The Mitchell cabin perspective on protection and food for wildlife

333. Guatemalan murder suspect, who was hunted via social media, caught in Mexico via TV

332. Mulling a potential flap at the confab

331. My frantic flight from Latin

330. The Fall of Nicasio and Point Reyes Station

329. A dead buck, buzzards, flies…. and who else?

428. With federal parks here closed, art exhibits getting more attention

427. From Paris’ Montmartre to New Orleans’ Storyville to San Francisco’s Tenderloin

426. Masterful new book set in Alaskan wilderness is a story of conflicts that echo West Marin’s

425. The pressure on journalists as the NSA pushes US toward becoming George Orwell’s ’1984′

424. The US government’s love-hate relationship with Syrian brutality

423. Tomales Founder Day parade and party in park draw a huge crowd

422. A visit from Pepé Le Pew

421. A young leviathan dies at Stinson Beach

420. Images of many types of dogs at Inverness Fair

419. First the grim news, then the gay

418. Don’t believe everything you read; newspapers will survive

417. Don’t Bogart that smoke detector, you roach

416. Wildlife relish outdoor dining at Mitchell cabin

415. ‘The town that West Marin forgot’ celebrates its park with food, auctions, rock ‘n’ roll, and grand opera

414. Raccoon-noitering

413. Thoughts about our infatuation with animals

412. Fox News in Point Reyes Station

411. New Age detritus found to be littering roadside in Lagunitas

410. Western Weekend 2013: good weather, good fun; close call

409. The mysteries of words, birds, and the NRA

408. Remembering massacres under Guatemalan President Ríos Montt

407. My good buddy gets hit by a car and dies

406. Tormented by computers, comforted by spring

405. Way out west in West Marin

404. Enduring a week of terrible events

403. Bicyclist killed in Inverness Park

402. Of cats and bobcats, burros and burrows

401. Google boggles blogger

400. Exhibition of portraits of ‘Tomales Neighbors’, past and present, opens to kudos

399. Deus ex machina

398. Proposed law would end trapping of bobcats for their pelts

397. Postal Clerk Known for Feralhood Retires

396. Whatever Happened to Our Curiosity?

395. Filmmaker Ole Schell, formerly of Bolinas, with jookin’ dancer Lil’ Buck, actress Meryl Streep & cellist Yo-Yo Ma in China

394. The Point in Winter

393. When critters watch but don’t bother to bother each other

392. Quotes Worth Saving IV

391. Inverness museum exhibit on Swiss immigrant who came to be called ‘Mr. Point Reyes Station’

391. Our fascination with how words are used — some examples from across the pond

390. A collection of favorite wildlife photographs snapped around Mitchell cabin

389. Counting curves on Highway 1

388. The winter solstice of 2012

387. Shoreline School District blessed compared with a number of others

386. Pearl Harbor Day, Point Reyes Station’s Christmas tree lighting, and a new era at MALT

385. Quietly photographing all natural neighbors

384. The old codger connects Thanksgiving, turkeys, and NATO missiles

383. Feeding time

382. What a week for the press!

381. Our political D-Day

380. Marin agriculture as photographed between 1920 and 1950 by the county’s 1st farm advisor

379. Zen and the Art of Motor-mouth Maintenance

378. Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, a reminder of the Croatian immigration to Marshall

377. North Bend Ranch — rich in narrow-gauge railroad history — put up for sale

376. Young Kosovar refugee, whose diary West Marin read during war, sends an update

375. At the end of our line we found Cazadero

374. Typical-graphical errors and other journalistic confusion

373. Why Marin needs to approve Measure A

372. Tomales Founders Day parade bigger than ever

371. A convoluted look at language

370. Not quite what you’d expect

369. Jack Mason Museum opens exhibit on Inverness Yacht Club 100 years after it was first launched

368. Tomales High turns 100 years old as NASA’s Curiosity lands on Mars

367. Wild scene from my deck as photographed over two weeks

366. Far West Fest hot as a wildfire and lasts longer

365. The story of a ‘Deputy Sheriff in Wild and Wooly West Marin’

364. Drakes Bay Oyster Company struggles on against Park Service

363. Fighting a thorny intruder in West Marin

362. Unintentional double entendres in the press

361. Summer brings a new assortment of wildlife to Mitchell cabin

360. A short trip to exotic Gualala

359. Pictures from a fun-filled Western Weekend in Point Reyes Station

358. Marin County agriculture brought in $70 million last year

357. The agony and the ecstasy of Spring

356. History and merriment combine at Nicasio sesquicentennial celebration

355. Most 2nd District congressional candidates want US to legalize medical marijuana

354. Old Farmer’s Almanac still fresh after 220 years

353. A photographic history of Inverness Park

352. On eve of June 5 election, Supervisor Kinsey describes his grueling schedule

351. Glimpses of the narrow-gauge railroad

350. Senator Feinstein says Park Service employees ‘feel emboldened to once again fabricate science’

349. A drought for livestock but not for people

348. The origins of Point Reyes Station

347. More shenanigans by the Point Reyes National Seashore

346. Surviving another earthquake

345. Turkeys — both avian and human

344. Crowd at memorial honors beloved Realtor

343. Former National Seashore Supt. Neubacher & his boss Jon Jarvis becoming a political problem for the Obama administration

342. Grim times abroad and tranquil days at home

341. Using social media to hunt for Guatemalan murder suspect in US

340. The Great Storm of ’82 in pictures

339. Caught in the great storm of 1982

338. A roundup of wildlife at Mitchell cabin

337. Seasonal greetings can be confusing

336. Christmas Day visitors

335. How our Christmas turkeys got their name

334. A Christmas Carol

333. Who’s been naughty or nice

332. A gallery of visits from wildlife

331. The changing of the seasons

330. Artist Thomas Wood’s studio show captures nature’s beauty

329. Save America’s Postal Service

328. Symposium on National Seashore misdeeds; pancake fundraiser for firefighters & Disaster Council; barn dance — all in Pt. Reyes Station

327. Occupy Wall Street protest expands to Point Reyes Station

326. Joel Hack to retire as publisher of The West Marin Citizen

325. Women of West Marin

324. E Clampus Vitus gives further recognition to Duncans Mills’ trove of coastal history

323. Ungulates in the news

322. Incurring the raccoon gaze

321. Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace celebrates 40th anniversary

320. Tomales Founders Day parade and picnic

319. Newswomen heroic in covering combat

318. Gopher it

317. Inverness Fair provided an antidote to Weltschmerz

316. Saturday’s opening reception for an exhibition of Elisabeth Ptak’s collages

315. Living among the wildlife

314. The threat from a runaway sand dune

313. Saturday’s Far West Fest

312. What’s in a name?

311. Tomales’ party in the park

310. The frustrations of home maintenance — a lesson learned from ‘The Arkansas Traveler’

309. The turtle

308. Hats off to Safeway

307. As expressions come and go, do you know what you’re saying?

306. We’re back following an unknown hacker’s vandalism to this blog

305. The sun shone on Sunday’s Western Weekend parade

304. The Western Weekend 4-H Fair and barn dance

303. Words, pictures, and the press

302. Memorial for Jonathan Rowe who led creation of the commons in Point Reyes Station

301. Goddamn winter’s back

300. This blog turns 300

299. Charge ahead! or pay cash

298. Daughter dies in Nevada County

297. What does the Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus’ resurrection?

296. West Marin update

295. Tales from West Marin’s forgotten past

294. When everything goes wrong

293. Writer Jonathan Rowe dies unexpectedly at 65

292. Some of the creatures that visited my cabin in a single day

291. Finding small absurdities in the midst of major crises

290. Bolinas exhibition takes an artistic look at the world

289. A fox at the table

288. The common people are revolting

287. How two resourceful women coped with crises

286. Have a happy and trippy Valentine’s Day

285. Quotes Worth Saving III

284. Facebook, the bizarre culmination of mass communications

283. A Great blue heron, mondagreens, and three cheers for Ghana

282. Video of two tributes to Missy Patterson during her memorial reception

281. Wishing a healthy, happy new year to West Marin’s critters — you included

280. ‘Tis the time of Janus, the god who looks forward and back

279. The death of a West Marin matriarch

278. Improbable politics in Wasilla, St. Petersburg and Point Reyes Station

277. Faces along the Path of Lights

276. Literary and civic news sponsored by the creatures of West Marin

275. Another round of inter-species peace negotiations at Mitchell cabin

274. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott takes turns performing with Corey Goodman and Maria Muldaur at amazing fundraiser in Marshall

273. Trailer Stash — a musical fundraiser to prepare Marshall for disasters

272. Day of the Dead celebration in Point Reyes Station

271. Point Reyes pedestrian home from hospital after being struck by deer

270. Have a happy (or scary) Halloween

269. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce — a part of West Marin’s Latino heritage — further refined

268. This fall’s wildlife census for my hill

267. Culvert project at White House Pool aims to reduce flooding along the levee road

266. Greetings from your governor

265. Bolinas boy makes good with documentary on fashion models

264. Scotland’s ill-fated colony in Panamaand why I read the Economist

263. Avoiding more victims by capping a sticky gusher

262. Crafting the Considerate House

261. West Marin remembers Duane Irving

260. The art of boating

259. Firefighters in action

258. Do you like coyotes and bobcats? How about rats?

257. Los mapaches con cacahuates; también fotos de los cuervos y venados

256. Proposal for ceasefire in West Marin ‘newspaper war’

255. The young creatures of summer

254. Eli’s coming — causing momentary dismay at The Point Reyes Light

253. Under the volcano and in the eye of the storm — a firsthand account

252. The duel between The Point Reyes Light and The West Marin Citizen

251. Santa Muerte and El Cadejo

250. Wildlife around my cars on the Serengeti Plain of West Marin

249. A big Western Weekend Parade in li’l old Point Reyes Station

248. 4-H Fair and Coronation Ball keep alive Western Weekend’s agricultural traditions

247. A tail for West Marin to bear in mind this Western Weekend

246. Point Reyes Light sells and will incorporate as a nonprofit

245. Point Reyes Station area blackout rumored to have been sparked by bird

244. Planned Feralhood desperate for a new home

243. John Francis takes a walk down under

242. A day in a small town

241. Point Reyes Station’s notorious curve is scene of yet another vehicle crash

240. The Mother Goose method for getting rid of thistles

239. A benefit so that handicapped kids can go rafting

238. Where angels fear to tread

237. The Chronicle, hang gliders, and horses

236. Crowd celebrates 80th birthday of Marshall artist-political activist Donna Sheehan

235. A classic revisited

234. Nature celebrates spring

233. More on diplomatic news we’ve been following

232. Sportscar flies off embankment; no one hurt in miraculous landing

231. A chat with the Trailside Killer

230. Life and death on my hill

229. Valentine’s Fair raises money for Haiti relief

228. Historic irony as milk truck overturns in Marshall

227. Encouraging my bodhisattva possum on her path to enlightenment

226. Benefit for Haitian earthquake survivors filled with mixed emotions

225. What drought? Nicasio Reservoir overflows

224. Disconcerting standup reporting

223. The storms begin; schools close; a near miss at my cabin

222. Spare the rodent (or rabbit) & spoil the diet

221. Lookin’ out my backdoor: some of my favorite wildlife photos

220. Careening through the holidays

219. Chileno Valley journalist working in Abu Dhabi brings new wife home for visit

218. Just what would Mayberry be like on acid?

217. The foxes of downtown Point Reyes Station

216. Interpreting dreams

215. Let’s talk turkey

214. You’ll Never Walk Alone — an unlikely story

213. A wistful walk on the bottom of Nicasio Reservoir

212. Progress in the backyard peace process

211. John Francis leaving; 4 other artists turn pages but sticking around

210. What we inherit

209. Over 200 show up at fundraiser to help pay injured ad manager’s medical bills

208. A community helping one of its own

207. A country mouse in the Tenderloin

206. News of the week reported through pictures

205. Update on injured ad manager of West Marin Citizen; benefit planned; and will there be a race?

204. Startling weather; amazing stepdaughters

203. Talented-animal tales

2o2. Saga of The West Marin Citizen ad manager’s recovery spreads around the globe — not always accurately

201. And you were there

200. Hospitalized ad manager of West Marin Citizen coming home; friends volunteering to provide meals

199. Scenes from the Inverness Fair

198. Great progress for injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen despite problems with convalescent hospital

197. Thieves use ruse to clean out till at Station House Gifts

196. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce goes on sale

195. A hillside of wildlife

194. Kaiser Permanente’s ‘Sicko’ machinations shock injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen

193. Immobilized by multiple injuries, ad manager keeps selling from hospital bed

192. All creatures feathered and furry

191. The wildlife of summer around my cabin & an update on Linda Petersen’s condition

19o. West Marin Citizen advertising manager hurt in crash; her popular dog Sebastian dies

189. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade

188. The Western Weekend Livestock Show

187. Western Weekend parade will be Sunday despite reports to the contrary

186. The purple couch beside the road

185. A funny thing happened at the car wash Friday & other odd events

184. My brush with a badger

183. Scientists find no evidence oyster farm harming Drakes Estero; more likely restoring it

182. Why bottom of Drakes Estero can never become part of a wilderness area

181. Badger, Ratty, and the sensual raccoon

180. ‘And how the wind doth ramm!/ Sing: Goddamm — Ezra Pound

179. A tailgate gallery of bumper-sticker humor; Point Reyes weather both Arctic & tropical

178. Crowd in Inverness Friday calls for reviving park’s Citizens Advisory Commission

177. Flying over Northwest Marin

176. Spring meditations in a Miwok cemetery concerning the news of West Marin.

175. Two warning signs of Spring

174. Tomales may be little but it’s lively

173. Doe stalks cat; raccoon emulates Scripture — for the rain it raineth every day

172. Three-year drought comes to a symbolic ending as Nicasio Reservoir overflows

171. Pot busts at my cabin — again

170. Happy Valentine’s Day (as it’s evolved)

169. Blogging about blogging

168. Thinking about words

167. Point Reyes Station celebrates President Barack Obama’s inauguration

166. A reader in Ghana

165. The bittersweet story of a hardy little tree

164. A parting look at 2008

163. Blackout hits Tomales Bay area

162. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVIII: Way Out West in West Marin

161. Chileno Valley Ranch as depicted by a rancher-artist who lives there

160. Nature’s Two Acres XXXVIII: This time it’s a tale of two bobbed cats

159. Thanksgiving in Point Reyes Station

158. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVII: a bobcat at my cabin

157. Quotes Worth Saving II

156. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVI: The migrating birds of fall; or ‘Swan Lake’ revisited

155. Election night euphoria

154. The fun and anxiety of preparing for a disaster

153. Porky Pig, Demosthenes, Joe Biden, and ‘K-K-K-Katy

152. The political zoo.

151. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXV: Mr. Squirrel

150. A coyote at my cabin

149. Preparing for the fire season

148. Telling the Raccoon ‘Scat’

147. Faces from the weekly press

146. Tomales, Tomales, that toddling town

145. How park administration used deception & sometimes-unwitting environmentalists to harass oyster company with bad publicity

144. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXIII: Photographing wildlife indoors and out

143. What government scientists elsewhere had to say about the park’s misrepresenting research to attack oyster company

142. Landscape photos & paintings in Stinson Beach

141. What’s in the Inspector General’s report on the park that newspapers here aren’t telling you

140. Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher seen as ’scary’

139. A demonstration to save Point Reyes National Seashore deer; park administration dishonesty officially confirmed

138. The good, the bizarre, and the ugly

138. Alice in ‘Wilderness

137. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXII: The first raccoon kits of summer

136. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXI: The pink roses of Point Reyes Station

135. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXX: Baldfaced hornets

134. Scenes from my past week

133. Artist Bruce Lauritzen of Point Reyes Station draws a crowd for opening of exhibit

132. Kite day at Nicasio School

131. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade in photos

130. Early projections hold: Obama, Woolsey & Kinsey win… Leno easily bests Migden & Nation

129. Western Weekend’s 4-H Livestock Show fun — but smaller than ever

128. Humane Society of the US says National Seashore claims about deer contraception are misleading

127. Lt. Governor John Garamendi joins battle to save fallow & axis deer in Point Reyes National Seashore

126. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXIX: Cold-blooded carnality… Or, why be warm blooded?

125. Nature’s Two Acres XXVIII: The first fawns of spring

124. The Beat Generation lives on at the No Name Bar

123. ‘Still Life with Raccoon

122. Nature’s Two Acres XXVII: Animals about town.

121. Newspaperman from Chileno Valley describes his life in the United Arab Emirates

120. Point Reyes Station and Inverness Park demonstrators call for a pedestrian bridge over Papermill Creek

119. Seeing history through newsmen’s eyes…. or the pen is mightier than the pigs

118. Five Faces of Spring

117. Supervisor Steve Kinsey defends further restrictions on woodstoves in West Marin

116. Prostitution in New York, Reno, and Point Reyes Station

115. A country without the decency to ban torture

114. National Seashore’s slaughter of deer traumatizes many residents here; ‘we demand a stop’

113. A tale of Kosovo, West Marin, and a bored battalion of Norwegian soldiers

112. Dillon Beach sewage spill update

111. ‘Drive-by journalism’

110. Sewage spills into ocean at Dillon Beach

109. Nature’s Two Acres XXVI: Which came first, blacktail or mule deer? Hint — their venison is oedipal

108. Nature’s Two Acres XXV: Talking turkey

107. Here’s hoping ‘the goose hangs high this Thursday for Valentine’s Day

106. Signs of bureaucratic contamination

105. A final thought about the Caltrans worker who just did his job — and saved the day

104. Statewide campaign to legalize hemp and marijuana comes to Point Reyes Station

103. Heavy news media presence briefly halts axis-deer slaughterin the Point Reyes National Seashore

102. Storm damage bad but could have been tragic

101. Nature’s Two Acres XXIV: Buffleheads, Greater Scaups, and the 16.6 million wild ducks shot annually

100. Lawsuits against and by Robert Plotkin settled out of court

99. Nature’s Two Acres XXIII: Bambi, Thumper, and Garfield

98. Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close Tomales Bay State Park to save money could prove expensive

97. Old Christmas trees, wild turkeys, and the famous cat-and-rat scheme

96. Blackouts, newspapers in the news, and poetic frustration on the prairie

95. Hurricane-force wind & heavy rain take heavy toll on West Marin

94. Marin County gets a bum rap from itself

93. ‘Eco-fascism in the Point Reyes National Seashore

92. Guess who came to Christmas dinner

91. Yuletide greetings from Santa Claws

90. Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s ominous mailer

89. Nature’s Two Acres XXII: They’re hundreds of times more deadly than cynanide… and headed this way

88. Non-native species stops traffic in Point Reyes Station

87. Blackouts bedevil Point Reyes Station area

86. Urban legends

85. Nature’s Two Acres XXI: Coyote influx benefits some birds around Point Reyes Station

84. Winter Moon Fireside Tales — an undiscovered gem draws only four ticketholders opening night (but more for second show)

83. Striptease in Point Reyes Station… well, sorta

82. Our Lady of the Chutzpah — the many faces of State Senator Carole Migden

81. Stefanie Pisarczyk (AKA Stefanie Keys): a woman of two worlds

80. Point Reyes Station’s ‘Path of Lights’

79. Lessons to be learned from the oil spill

78. Nature’s Two Acres Part XX: Where coyotes howl and raccoons roam free

77. West Marin Community Thanksgiving Dinner celebrated in Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace

76. Giving thanks for an abundant harvest

75. Being a Gypsy isn’t enough; KPFA fires host criticized for not being a ‘person of color’

74. Nature’s Two Acres Part IXX: ‘Things that go bump in the night’

73. Point Reyes Station pharmacist decries health-insurance practices

72. Farm Bureau president quits; defends independence of wife who disagrees with his political position

71. Ship hits Bay Bridge; spilled oil drifts out Golden Gate and mires birds on West Marin coast

70. California photo book’s release celebrated with gala on Inverness Ridge

69. Coastal Post’s December issue to be its last, assistant editor says; publisher contradicts her

68. West Marin’s ‘Mac Guru’ leaving town — a friend with a knack for surviving

67. One last warm weekend before the season of darkness

66. Ranching matriarch Hazel Martinelli dies at 101

65. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVIII: Seasonal sightings

64. White House Pool: a public park where management listens to the public

63. Tuesday’s Marin County Farm Bureau luncheon for politicos

62. Hawks on the move

61. Point Reyes Station’s Hazel Martinelli celebrates 101st birthday with party at son’s deer camp

60. Vandals dump sewage at West Marin School

59. Paving Point Reyes Station’s main street at night

58. Bolinas firehouse and clinic opening party Sunday

57. Nature’s Two Acres XVII: As seen by an old, almost-blind dog

56. Despite public-be-damned management, it’s still a beautiful park.

55. Language, politics & wildlife

54. Truth becomes an endangered species at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

53. ‘Possums,’ a sequel to the musical ‘Cats’

52. The KWMR/Love Field ‘Far West Fest’

51. Quotes Worth Saving & the Inverness Fair

50. Watching the Point Reyes National Seashore obliterate cultural history

49. Congress sees through Point Reyes National Seashore claims

48. Music, wildlife, and the cosmos

42. Garbage in, garbage out

41. 76-year-old Nick’s Cove reopens

40. What we didn’t celebrate on the Fourth of July

39. Ship’s flare or meteor

38. The death of a salesman: Andrew Schultz

37. Preventing fires at home while The Point Reyes Light feels the heat

36. Monday’s demonstration against The Point Reyes Light

35. Inverness Park fire Friday razes art studio

34. Western Weekend retrospective; anonymous satire of Point Reyes Light distributed at parade; Light’s use of unpaid interns may run afoul of labor laws.

33. Sunday’s Western Weekend parade and barbecue

32. Many fail to find Western Weekend livestock show; a new newpaper debuts in West Marin; The Point Reyes Light reports a former bookkeeper is in jail on embezzlement charges.

31. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVI: A gopher snake & other neighbors

30. New newspaper to be published in West Marin

29. Mermaids, cows, Horizon Cable, and Russia’s Internet war on Estonia

28. Nature’s Two Acres Part XV: ‘Among animals…one finds natural caricatures.’

27. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIV: ‘The world, dear Agnes, is a strange affair.’

26. Sheriff Bob Doyle stays the course despite blunder

25. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIII: ‘Who’s the Head Bull-Goose Loony Around Here?’

24. Nature’s Two Acres Part XII: April showers ‘cruel’ with ‘no regrets’

23. Nature’s Two Acres Part XI: The perky possum

22. Former Point Reyes Light columnist John Grissim, the late pornographer Artie Mitchell, Brazilian President Lula and the advent of orgasmic diplomacy

21. Nature’s Two Acres Part X: ‘Nature Red in Tooth and Claw’

20. Nature’s Two Acres Part IX: Point Reyes Station’s blackbirds

19. Nature’s Two Acres Part VIII: ‘Mice & rats, and such small deer’

18. The Gossip Columnist

17. Saying Yes to Change: A former Point Reyes Station innkeeper finds true joy by moving in with a working-class family in a poor neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

16. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes Part II: Whatever happened to the Citizens Advisory Commission to the GGNRA & Point Reyes National Seashore?

15. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes: Part I

14. Marin supervisors refuse to tilt at McEvoy windmill

13. Nature’s Two Acres Part VII: Rats v. dishwashers

12. Nature’s Two Acres Part VI: How Flashing Affects Wildlife

11. Nature’s Two Acres Part V: By Means of Water

10. Bankruptcy court trustee lets Robert Plotkin hold onto some of his Ponzi-scheme ‘profits’

9. Big Pot Busts at My Cabin

8. Storm-caused fire razes Manka’s Lodge and Restaurant in Inverness

7. Nature’s Two Acres Part IV: Christmas turkeys & where the buck stopped

6. Nature’s Two Acres Part III: Insectivores and Not

5. My background: Biographical information on newspaperman Dave Mitchell

4. Nature’s Two Acres Part II: Living dinosaurs actually found around my cabin

3. Nature’s Two Acres: A Point Reyes Station Photo Exhibit

2. Robert I. Plokin

1. Introduction to this site SparselySageAndTimely.com plus an account of orphaned fawns being released in Chileno Valley.

In a startling report last week, Aljazeera America unveiled the Kuwaiti government’s ingenious solution for dealing with its undocumented residents. Why couldn’t the US do something similar? Of course, we’d have to figure out how to do it on the cheap; Kuwait is the fifth richest country in the world per person while the United States is only tenth.

Here’s how reporter and opinion editor Atossa Araxia Abrahamian explained the scheme. “The oil-rich gulf state of Kuwait has struggled for years with a demographic problem: More than 100,000 of its residents are legally stateless, and the country refuses to recognize them as its own, saying they entered the country illegally.”

The Bidoon, as they’re called, “come from a range of economic backgrounds — some Bidoon live in poverty while others…. live in tony houses.” Many are descended from desert nomads. What they share is being routinely denied basic documentation such as birth, death, and marriage certificates supposedly because the Bidoons are “illegal residents.”

This, in turn, makes it almost impossible for them to get social services and passports.

But now, “a Kuwaiti minister has told a local paper that within a month, Kuwait’s Bidoon… would be eligible to gain citizenship — not of Kuwait but of the Comoros Islands,” Aljazerra’s Abrahamian reported. Never heard of the Comoros? Take a look.

The Comoros Islands, a tiny archipelago in the Indian Ocean, lie 185 miles east of Mozambique. With a land area of only 785 square miles, the former French colony is one of the smallest countries on earth. Its population is approximately 798,000. Kuwait isn’t all that big itself — 9,880 square miles (the equivalent of 83 by 83 miles) — with a population of 4 million.

Kuwaiti’s interior minister has revealed that in less than a month, the government of his desert state will help its Bidoon register for “economic citizenship” in the lush, tropical Comoros Islands, Aljazeera reported. “This would legalize their immigration status in Kuwait and allow them to qualify for health and education benefits,” reporter Abrahamian explained.

However, she added, “the citizenship could also put them at risk of deportation. While stateless people are difficult for countries to get rid of — their lack of documentation actually protects them from being sent away — foreign citizens can be kicked out at a moment’s notice.”

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has called Kuwait’s scheme “a cynical ploy to relieve itself of its own obligations to the Bidoon.” The Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa program has called it “shocking.” A New York-based Bidoon activist quipped, “I went to bed in West Asia and woke up east African. These are the miracles of Arab regimes.”

And what do the Comoros Islands get out of the deal? Roughly five years ago, the impoverished islands began selling citizenships and passports to stateless residents of the United Arab Emirates and so far have made $200 million from the deal, which is a lot when you’re short of cash.

The mosque in Moroni, the capital of the Comoros Islands.

“In return for the passports [bought for Kuwait's Bidoons], Comoros will…. receive direct investment from the Kuwaiti government, which promised to build schools and charities on the islands,” Kuwait’s interior minister said.

“Many Bidoon see reason to accept the offer, reasoning that any citizenship — even if it’s from a country most people haven’t heard of, let alone one they can find on a map — is better than nothing, especially when it appears to come with actual benefits,” Aljazeera commented.

One Bidoon worker in Kuwait was quoted as joking that “Comoros looked nice and that they would soon be jetting away to the islands.”

With that thought in mind, why doesn’t our government merely buy citizenship in some Caribbean island-nation for our undocumented immigrants arriving from Mexico and Central America? It would be far cheaper and safer than the current battle on our southern border.

And what’s more, none of these immigrants would ever be obliged to visit the Caribbean although how could they resist such entreaties as: “Aruba, Jamaica — ooo I wanna take you — Bermuda, Bahama — come on pretty mama — Key Largo, Montego — baby why don’t we go — Jamaica. Off the Florida Keys, there’s a place called Kokomo….”

The names alone are enough to make one want to be a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, or St. Lucia.

Marin County, and especially West Marin, have come to seem like a coastal refuge after last week’s Congressional elections, the conundrum of ISIS, California’s drought, and Stanford’s losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

In order to provide a respite from this world of troubles, I’m presenting this week a collection of happier scenes from around Marin.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Nicasio Square. Using locally milled redwood, townspeople in 1867 built the church for $3,000 (about $48,000 in today’s money).

I spent some time in Nicasio late last month, attending the opening of the new Nicasio Historical Society Museum and MALT Day at Nicasio Valley Farm’s Pumpkin Patch. While walking around the square, I was again struck by how unexpectedly well the New England architecture of several buildings fits with the old-west architecture of others, such as the Druid’s Hall and Rancho Nicasio.

Rob Roth on sax, KC Filson on piano, Píerre Archain on bass, and Michael Aragon on drums at the No Name bar in Sausalito. At far right, prominent Sausalito artist Steve Sara sketches the scene.

Last Friday evening, Lynn and I again ended up at the No Name bar  where we often go on Fridays. That’s the night the Michael Aragon Quartet performs modern jazz, much of it in the vein of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

When the quartet performed Adderley’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy a month ago, they inspired me to see what I could find out about the late sax player (1928-75). Perhaps the most-intriguing trivia I turned up was the origin of his name.

Here’s the story. Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley, a hefty man, already had a voracious appetite by the time he reached high school, and this led his classmates to call him “Cannibal.” The distinction between cannibals and cannonballs is, of course, so minor that most of the public didn’t notice when Adderley evolved from one into the other. __________________________________________________________________

The view out our bedroom window Sunday of a horse from Point Reyes Arabians grazing in the neighboring pasture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doe, a deer, a blacktail deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun…. A young deer in a spot of sunlight outside our kitchen window last week pricked up her ears as if the hills were alive with the sound of…. ?

Wild turkeys and deer coexist surprisingly well at Mitchell cabin. Obviously neither looks threatening to the other. The biggest dangers to them come from cars and hunters.

In the pine tree, the mighty pine tree, the raccoon sleeps tonight. In the pine tree, the quiet pine tree, the raccoon sleeps tonight. Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh…. ________________________________________________________________

A mother raccoon and her kit at our kitchen door.

Young raccoons are recognizable by the time we get to see them notwithstanding their having been delivered in kit form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lynn and I hear coyotes around the cabin every few days, but we seldom get to see them. Here a coyote takes cover behind our woodshed.

The sloe-eyed coyote emerges from behind a clump of — appropriately enough — coyote brush. Coyotes are close relatives of gray foxes.

Keeping an eye out (and ears up) for coyotes and other predators, a jackrabbit sits in the field outside our kitchen window.

Among the other predators around here are bobcats. They don’t try to stay out of sight, but they trot off when they see humans.

And then there are the gray foxes. They live and breed on this hill, and until recently would show up at the kitchen door most evenings hoping to be fed just about anything — bread, nuts, dog food, whatever.

The foxes still show up occasionally in the afternoon to sun themselves atop the picnic table on our deck. Their nighttime visits, however, have come to an end for now, and I miss their vulpine partying.

The Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) was observed Saturday evening in downtown Point Reyes Station. It’s a day set aside each year for special remembrances of friends and relatives who have died.

Meanwhile up the bay, Tomales Regional History Center on Sunday opened a well-attended exhibition, “The Region’s Lost Buildings: Their Stories and their Legacies.” More about that in a moment.

A Día de los Muertos altar in the Dance Palace held dozens of photographs of deceased family members and mementos of their lives.

Saturday’s celebration began with a procession from Gallery Route One to the Dance Palace. These young ladies wore angel costumes and looked very sweet while some celebrants wore Halloween costumes which were downright ghoulish.

Aña Maria Ramirez, the de facto matriarch of the Latino community around Point Reyes Station, spoke in English and Spanish about Dia de los Muertos. The event was organized by Point Reyes Station artist Ernesto Sanchez, who also created the altar. The Dance Palace sponsored the event with financial support from Marin Community Foundation.

A variety of excellent Mexican food drew a long line to the serving table.

Local singer Tim Weed and his partner Debbie Daly (in white) led some impromptu singing in the Dance Palace.

For many in attendance, including Mary Jean Espulgar-Rowe and her son Joshua, it was a family event.

Elvira de Santiago of Marshall paints the face of Ocean Ely, two and a half, of Point Reyes Station.

Carrie Chase and Diego Chavarria, 10, of Point Reyes Station showed up in elegant costumes. Here Diego waits to have his face painted.

And while all this was going on, photographer Eden Trenor (left) of Petaluma and formerly of Point Reyes Station, was having an opening in the Dance Palace lobby for an exhibit of her works. With her is Dan Harrison, a printmaker who owns a gallery in Olema.

This photograph of ponds is part of Trenor’s show, which is called “For the Yes of It.” _______________________________________________________________

“The Region’s Lost Buildings: Their Stories and their Legacies,” which opened at the Tomales Regional History Center Sunday, is also a photographic exhibit for the most part, but the photos are far older.

Curating the exhibition was Ginny Magan of Tomales, and she did an excellent job, both in her choice of pictures to display and in her captions for them.

The narrow-gauge railroad depot in Marshalls, as Marshall used to be called. The Shields store to the right of the depot still survives and now belongs to Hog Island Oyster Company. “This image of Marshall’s depot shows a style typical of small, early train stations across the country, with its board-and-batten siding and deep eaves,” its caption notes.

The Bayview Hotel, which once stood in this spot on the shore of Tomales Bay, was built by the Marshall brothers in 1870 and was frequented by fishermen and hunters.

When it burned in 1896, the Marshall brothers had the North Coast Hotel (above) constructed on the site. “As the photo shows,” the History Center points out, “the building was a few feet from the railroad tracks.

“The hotel was knocked into the bay by the 1906 earthquake, but pulled out and repaired by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Shields.

“Except for its use as military housing during the Second World War, the building remained a hotel under several proprietors until it caught fire in 1971. The 25 guests, all the employees, and owner Tom Quinn and his family got out safely, but the hotel — with only its brick chimney standing — was a complete loss.”

“The depot at Tomales was unusual,” according to the History Center’s caption. “Because of its low-pitched roof, it resembles something built a century later. All Tomales railroad buildings were painted a brick red.

The aptly named hamlet of Hamlet, another stop on the North Shore Railway line, was a village from 1870 to 1987, when the National Park Service bought it.

“Hamlet’s namesake was John Hamlet, a dairyman from Tennessee who purchased the site with gold coin in 1870. He left little but his name. The next owner, Warren Dutton, developed Hamlet as a railroad stop that the Marin Journal described as ‘one of the most inviting places on the bay for aquatic sports.’

“To most of today’s locals, the name Hamlet is connected with the Jensen family, who purchased the land in 1907, and developed and inhabited the village over 80 years and four generations. By 1930, the Jensens were establishing Hamlet’s well-known connection with oyster farming.

The Tragedy of Hamlet.

“In 1971, third-generation matriarch Virginia Jensen was left a widow with five children. She — and eventually they — carried on, though maintaining the oyster farm, its retail components, and the property’s buildings was clearly a struggle.

“A 1982 storm all but obliterated the oyster beds. ‘I never planted [oysters] after that; that was my last tally-ho,’ remembered Mrs. Jensen. In 1987, she sold the site to the Park Service, which then looked the other way as vandals and the elements savaged it. In 2003, the Park Service demolished the last of the buildings.

Highway 1 is the main street of Tomales where it’s known as Maine Street.

“Trotting down Maine Street toward First c. 1890. Originally the Union Hotel occupied this site; after it burned this group of small buildings housed a saloon — one of six or eight in the town — a billiard room and Sing Lee Washing and Ironing. Today the Piezzi Building is at this corner.”

“On a windy day in May 1920, the Plank Hotel caught fire. Despite the best efforts of townspeople at least 16 buildings burned to the ground — two dwellings and most of the town’s commercial center south of First Street.”

“The William Tell was established as a hotel and saloon in 1877. The original building burned in the 1920 fire but was rebuilt within the year. This photo was taken in the mid-1950s.

“The Fallon Creamery, built near the end of the 19th century, used state-of-the-art, steam-operated machinery. The creamery exhibited a 500-pound wheel of cheese at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in San Francisco.” ________________________________________________________________

By the end of the weekend I was again thanking my lucky stars to be living in West Marin. Everybody had been on their good behavior — even the cops.

When a sheriff’s deputy needed to use his patrol car to create a buffer for the Día de los Muertos procession marching down Point Reyes Station’s main street, I walked over and with feigned indignation exclaimed, “They’re all jaywalking.” The deputy replied with a laugh, “They are all jaywalking. And everyone is going to get a ticket.” And soon he drove off.

What a contrast with police in Saint George, Utah. At least according to the Daily Kos website, police last week raided a Halloween party at a family fun center simply because the event included dancing.

One can only imagine how St. George’s police would have reacted to the Aztec Dancers (left) in Point Reyes Station.

They weren’t just dancing, they were dancing on the main street.

Point Reyes Station today was unusually busy even for a Sunday. The firehouse was the scene of the 27th annual Pancake Breakfast and Benefit for the Point Reyes Station Disaster Council while Toby’s Feed Barn was the scene of the annual Papermill Creek Children’s Corner Carnival and Chef Off.

It almost looked like there was a fire at the Point Reyes Station firehouse Sunday morning. All the engines were out on the street, and smoke from a fire-extinguisher demonstration was billowing nearby.

Fire engines are moved out of the firehouse every year to give people a place to eat. The breakfast was again organized by Larry Thompson, a county fire department engineer and paramedic.

Inverness Volunteer Fire Department helped Marin County firefighters staff the fundraiser. Here Inverness firefighter Burton Eubank serves pancakes and sausages while Inverness VFD Chief Jim Fox flips a pancake.

Lynn Axelrod, the Point Reyes Station Disaster Council coordinator, sells raffle tickets at the pancake breakfast.

Smokey the Bear gives a thumbs up as sales of raffle tickets and pancakes, along with donations, bring in $9,635  for the Point Reyes Station Disaster Council.

A firefighter demonstrates cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at the entrance to the firehouse.

Children got a kick out of being hoisted in a rescue basket operated by a member of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team.

Other kids had fun pretending to operate jet boats belonging to the Search and Rescue Team.

Youngsters line up for a ride around Point Reyes Station in a fire engine. “Adults can ride too,” one firefighter told me, but I wasn’t about to take up some of the limited seating.

Only four blocks from the firehouse, The Papermill Creek Children’s Corner Carnival, a benefit for the preschool, began just before the pancake breakfast ended. Here Carolyn Placente of Point Reyes Station (left), chair of the preschool’s board of directors, handles the cashbox. Her kids, Dylan and Cherise, graduated from the preschool and now attend Inverness School.

The Papermill Creek Children’s Corner Carnival offered a variety of attractions, ranging from gourmet food to pony rides to live music to archery from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in front of Toby’s Feed Barn.

Six professional chefs from West Marin donated their time and skills for the fundraiser, said food organizer Leslie Durkee. They were: August Temer, the Sand Dollar in Stinson Beach; Shannon Gregory, the Marshall Store; Jennifer Lutrell, The Fork at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company; Matt Elias, Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness; Mary Margaret Stewart, the Siren Canteen in Stinson Beach; and Ed Vigil, Perry’s Deli in Inverness Park.

Selling pastries.

Five Brooks Stables in the Olema Valley provided pony rides as part of the fundraiser.

At a small petting zoo in the Feed Barn’s parking lot, two calves relax oblivious to a youngster rushing by.

With encouragement from Valerie Saenz, who ran the “Eyeball Toss,” youngsters try to get a golf ball to land in a vaguely skull-shaped target made of plastic cups.

Inside Toby’s, numerous little girls were eager to have their faces painted.

Kids tested their archery skills under the guidance of Richard Saenz of San Quentin. Richard is an instructor in the prison machine shop and also does contract work for NASA.

Without question, the physically largest attraction for kids inside the Feed Barn was a maze formed from bales of hay. It took some of the youngsters awhile to find their way out of the maze, and because of all the activities in town, it took some of their parents awhile to find their way out of Point Reyes Station.

Nor was Point Reyes Station the only West Marin town who chose to have some civic fun on Sunday. While all this was going on in Point Reyes Station, down the road in Bolinas, a Health and Safety Day — complete with helicopter demonstrations, firetruck rides, and fire-extinguisher training — was scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the firehouse and Community Health Center.

Two major events drew crowds to Nicasio last weekend. One was in the center of town Saturday, the other on the edge of town Sunday, and that was in addition to the usual throng who showed up for Rancho Nicasio’s weekend music.

On Saturday, the Nicasio Historical Society held a grand opening for its new headquarters and museum on Nicasio Square. Out of necessity, most of the celebration took place in the Druids Hall next door. The museum itself is so small it would have been overwhelmed if 20 people had tried to squeeze inside.

In the Druids Hall, Elaine Doss, president of Nicasio Historical Society, urges a crowd of talkative history buffs to take their seats so the presentations can resume. The Historical Society was founded 10 years ago.

I wasn’t surprised that there was a fair amount of public interest in the opening, which included refreshments, music, art, and history talks by Dewey Livingston and Betty Goerke. The interest, however, proved to be so great that even Druids Hall was close to being overwhelmed.

Entertaining guests outdoors was piano man Petaluma Pete.

The town and especially its square are favorite locales  for en plein air painters, and several Nicasio paintings were on display inside the Druids Hall.

‘Summer Morning in Nicasio’ by MaryMcCaffrey.

Detail from ‘Gallagher Ranch’ by Tom Wood. The artist happens to be one of the museum’s neighbors. ________________________________________________________________

Among the most fascinating displays at the museum opening was an exhibit of Miwok Indian history. Artifacts suggest that a Miwok village referred to as Echatamal had existed in the Rancheria Road area as far back 1400.

Between 1783 and 1817, however, the Spanish Mission system took 1,700 Miwok from their homes throughout Marin County to work for Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Only 485 of them survived, according to the exhibit.

Many of the survivors were then moved to Mission San Rafael.

When the Mexican government ended the mission system in 1834, Governor José Figueroa decreed that each head of family and male Indian receive somewhere between two and 29 acres, as well as some of the mission’s livestock.

Five Coast Miwok received a total of approximately 80,000 acres in Nicasio but by 1870 had lost ownership of the land to white settlers. A few Miwok families continued living on the land, but a number of others moved to Marshall.

The only Indian who was able to actually buy traditional Miwok land was chief José Calistro (above), who in 1872 bought 24.53 acres surrounding his village at Nicasio for $980 in gold coin. However, chief Calistro died five years later, and in 1887, his son sold the land to his lawyer for $5. ________________________________________________________________

Much of what is known about the final days of the Miwok in Nicasio comes from the late Mary Copa.

Mary Copa’s mother, Jauna Bautista, is seen here with her grandchildren, Joseph Monzaga, Julia Frease, and Edward Monzaga.

Nicasio, by the way, takes its name from a Miwok from the area. He was given the name Nicasio in 1808 when at the age of 20 he was part of a group of Indians baptized en masse at Mission Dolores.

The name originates with a 12th century Sicilian knight who fought in the crusades. _______________________________________________________________

The next day, Sunday, was a fundraiser for Marin Agricultural Land Trust. The crowd who showed up for MALT Day at Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch was even bigger than the previous day’s.

Along with pumpkin picking and perusing the wares of the adjoining Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, people could get information about MALT, which was founded as a nonprofit alliance of environmentalists and conservation-minded ranchers.

Using grants, donations, and bond money, MALT buys agriculture-conservation easements from ranchers. The easements guarantee their land will be kept in agriculture in perpetuity, thus remaining open space without any commercial development or subdividing.

Squealing all the way, youngsters enthusiastically went down a giant slide during MALT Day.

It wouldn’t be a community celebration in West Marin without a 4-H bake sale.

Kids got a chance to ride a mechanical bull a la ‘Urban Cowboy’ — but at a slower speed and with a softer landing should anyone get bucked off.

One way to keep the children entertained was to take them on train rides. _______________________________________________________________

As many girls as boys overcame any fear of heights and clambered up the face of a MALT Day monolith.

Using handholds children got their exercise climbing and then used their safety lines to rappel back to the bottom.

 

 

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It wouldn’t be a harvest festival without a hayride, and for many youngsters this was their first.

Nicasio is in the geographic center of Marin County, and for that reason some landowners once proposed that Civic Center be built here; however, it was deemed too remote for East Marin residents. As a result, the town today has a population of only 96. At least according to the 2010 census. Yet it sure knows how to host a lot of fun. ________________________________________________________________

 

When I was a lad in the 1940s, the fictional character who fascinated me was not Superman, Roy Rogers, or the Lone Ranger. It was Mowgli. Of course it’s easy to romanticize living naked with a pack of wolves, but one of Mowgli’s adventures in particular remains part of my life.

Mind you I’m not talking about the Mowgli of Walt Disney’s animated movie The Jungle Book. That trivialized portrayal of the youth would not come along for another 20 years. I’m talking about Mowgli, the hero of nine Rudyard Kipling short stories. My mother read me at least three of the stories from Kipling’s 1893 collection, The Jungle Book, and I was more intrigued by what Mowgli got to see than by what he actually did.

Kipling (1865-1936), a British short-story writer who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, made a name for himself in two disparate genres: 1) children’s stories; and 2) stories and poems about British imperialism in India. The Jungle Book, naturally, is set in an Indian jungle.

Mowgli growing up with wolves. (Illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg)

Mowgli is the boy who grows up in the jungle with a pack of wolves after his parents lose him during a tiger attack. A mother wolf with cubs decides to raise the child as a man cub, and because he is hairless, she names him “Mowgli,” which apparently is wolfspeak for “Frog.”

Mowgli’s greatest accomplishment is to kill a malicious tiger, Shere Khan. With help from two wolves, he causes water buffalo at two ends of a ravine to stampede down it. Shere Khan gets caught in the middle and is trampled.

Monkeys in the abandoned city of Cold Lairs sit around its crumbling palace.

For me, the highpoint of the stories occurred when a pack of monkeys kidnapped Mowgli and took him to the Cold Lairs, an abandoned city complete with a palace half overgrown with jungle. Mowgli escaped when Kaa, the python, hypnotized the monkeys with a writhing “hunger dance,” but that wasn’t what intrigued me.

What I, as a young boy, found hardest to imagine was a jungle so aggressively overgrowing grand buildings from past cultures that the buildings ultimately disappear. When my mother assured me that large structures really can get lost in tropical forests, I began to fantasize about finding one.

A Burmese family’s home faces the railroad tracks while out in back tropical foliage has begun to swallow a deteriorating British-colonial building. (Seen from a train approaching Rangoon, 1986.)

It was only when I finally made it to such places as Guatemala, Thailand, and Burma in the 1980s that I saw for myself how readily jungle vines, bushes, and even trees can take root on abandoned edifices such as temples, palaces, and government buildings.

Vines and other foliage taking over an abandoned commercial building in downtown Rangoon create a romantic sadness. It may be exotic, but it’s hard not to feel sentimental when seeing former grandeur being consumed by opportunistic plants.

I’ve carried my fascination with intrusive jungle life with me for many years. The area around my desk in the old Point Reyes Light newsroom in the Creamery Building was filled with laurentii and dieffenbachia while pots of philodendrons and spider plants hung from the rafters.

As it happened, the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) in 2004 named The Light first in Public Service statewide for a series of stories about a Guatemalan immigrant who was attacked in Bolinas and nearly died. His personal tragedy was a catastrophe for his family. His wife was very ill, and he had been supporting her and the rest of his family, who were living in rural poverty in a remote area of Guatemala.

Light reporter Ana Carolina Monterroso and photographer Anika Zappa covered the story from Guatemala while Victoria Schlesinger was the key reporter in West Marin. Victoria represented the newspaper at the awards ceremony aboard the Queen Mary, and CNPA wanted a photo of Light staff to project on a screen while she received the Public Service plaque. The newsroom’s jungle was the perfect backdrop to symbolize the back country of Guatemala, so Victoria and I (above) posed amid the foliage. ________________________________________________________________

My love of the jungle is most evident these days inside Mitchell cabin. Here and there spider plants cascade down from the loft into the living room and dining room below.

Screened from the dining room by a floor-to-ceiling tower of spider-plants, Lynn prepares dinner in our kitchen.

 

 

 

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If you don’t look where you’re going in the dining room, it’s easy to find greenery in your face.

Lynn and I have pretty much learned to avoid becoming entangled, but guests are forever brushing spider plants out of their hair.

 

 

 

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Having spider plants hanging into the living room from the floor above often results in our peering through a bit of jungle while carrying on a conversation.

What’s more, it only takes a little jungle to make everything seem more exotic. I may have moved into the village, but deep inside me the romanticism of Mowgli in the Cold Lairs palace lives on.

 

 

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Little did I realize four years ago when I wrote a posting about Scotland’s ill-fated attempt to establish a colony in Panama that I was telling the backstory to last month’s referendum on Scottish independence.

On Sept. 19, Scots voted 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent to remain in Great Britain and not become an independent country. Given most coverage in the US press, readers could have easily missed the fact that Scotland had previously been independent, but when a nationwide get-rich-quick scheme went awry, it lost its independence.

I’m going to let a Scottish journalist, whom I met this summer, describe the significance of the vote against independence. First, however, here’s an excerpt from my Sept. 14, 2010, posting that gave the backstory.

Scotland was an independent kingdom from 843 when it was unified until 1707 when it became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain. As an independent country, Scotland during the 1600s had imperialistic ambitions in the Americas. It tried unsuccessfully to establish colonies in Nova Scotia, East New Jersey, and South Carolina, but the worst disaster occurred in Central America.

In the late 1690s, the Scots attempted to establish the colony of New Caledonia on the Isthmus of Panama. A series of crop failures had caused Scotland to look for an overseas source of income. Enter financier William Paterson with a scheme for establishing a colony at Darien in Panama. It would be a way to facilitate trade with the Far East and with European colonies on the west coast of the Americas.

The site of the Darien colony is shown just to the left of the word “Darien” in the “Gulf of Darien” on the right side of this map from 1699.

Despite no one really knowing how all this could be done, the Company of Scotland was chartered in 1695 to raise money to finance the scheme. The company’s first expedition to Panama in 1698, however, ended in disaster. About 1,200 colonists sailed for Panama, but because of disease and starvation, only about 300 survived. Of the five ships that had made the crossing, only one was able to return to Scotland the following year.

Unfortunately, a second expedition had unwittingly set sail before the remnants of the first arrived home. The second group tried to rebuild what the first group had abandoned, as well as complete a fort for defense against the Spanish. And the Spanish did indeed attack. The Scots were briefly able to hold them off but were ultimately forced to surrender. By then, most of the colonists who had joined the expedition had died of dysentery or other diseases. Only a few hundred (out of about 1,300) made it back to Scotland.

The economic effect of these failures devastated Scotland. Citizens from all levels of Scottish society had invested in the Darien scheme, and estimates of their combined losses range from a fifth to nearly a half of all the wealth of Scotland at that time. Many Scots were left indebted and impoverished.

Desperate to recover — in large part by sharing in England’s international trade — the Scots agreed to the 1707 Acts of Union, which created Great Britain as a political union of England and Scotland.

The Scottish contingent at the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) annual conference, which was held in Durango, Colorado, last June. From left: Julian Calvert, senior lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, having previously edited newspapers in England and Scotland; Scott Reid, group production journalist for the daily Glasgow Herald and the weekly Sunday Herald, both national Scottish papers; Roisin McGroarty, editor of the weekly Irvine Times on the west cost of Scotland and publisher of a quarterly magazine, the Stewarton Advertiser. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

While in Durango, I had the honor of receiving ISWNE’s Eugene Cervi award for career achievement and also gave a talk based my new book, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light. Lynn and I met scores of editors from throughout the English-speaking world.

Among the foreign journalists we met was Scott Reid of Scotland (above center). Interestingly, he works for a pair of sister newspapers that took opposing positions in their endorsements regarding Scottish independence. In the wake of the referendum’s defeat, Reid has given his fellow ISWNE members a copy of his observations to share.

This little country cannot be taken for granted

By Scott Reid
For more than two years, those of us working in Scottish journalism have been privileged to have a front row seat as history was made in our country.

The nation faced a simple question – Should Scotland be an independent country? The answer wasn’t so simple. And the tale of how Scotland, a nation of five million people, at one point looked on the verge of making a decision that would send shockwaves around the world will be talked about for decades to come.

To say the Scottish people were transfixed by the prospect of independence from the outset would be to lie, frankly.

Scott Reid, who wrote these observations, (right).

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which has campaigned for independence for Scotland from the U.K. for many decades, won a landslide majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011 because it had governed well for the previous term, rather than due to any great interest in this particular policy.

An agreement with Westminster was made for a referendum to be held. And most people, while appreciating the historic nature of this, got on with their lives.

In the months leading up to the vote, the atmosphere changed. In May, a paper I work for, the Sunday Herald, backed a Yes vote. This was no overnight switch – the tone of the paper had been moving in that direction for some time. The response was incredible. Sales rocketed and continued to fly as the weeks went on. In one recent week after the referendum sales of the paper year-on-year actually doubled to 49,291.

After two television debates between Alex Salmond of the SNP and former U.K. chancellor Alistair Darling of the No camp – one which was broadcast around the world and even picked up by C-Span – huge viewing figures showed that the public was now on-board with this process.

“I firmly believe that distance adds enchantment to the bagpipes” — William Butler Yeats’ jest, not Scott Reid’s

After the second debate, won by Salmond, the No campaign had a wobbly period. The polls narrowed. There was something in the air. I increasingly wondered if change was afoot.

Then a poll showed Yes ahead. 51% to 49%. And all hell broke loose. The markets shook, there was talk of both the U.K. Prime Minister and the U.K. leader of the opposition having to resign if they lost the vote, the issue dominated the front pages of papers in Scotland and throughout the U.K., and clearly had an impact beyond.

In response, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the opposition charged up to Scotland to try to retrieve the situation and offer Scots more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Throughout the final weeks, our papers were dominated by the referendum. On a daily basis The Herald contained 10 full broadsheet pages on the topic, featuring news, columnists, and occasionally four pages full of letters. The Sunday Herald, which had declared its position early doors, was also dominated by the topic.

Counter to its Sunday sister paper, The Herald decided to back the No side a few days before the vote after Westminster leaders promised extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. However, it warned that if much enhanced extra powers for the Scottish Parliament promised were not delivered then another referendum should follow suit, and the No side would deserve to lose.

It was an articulate case and one that even met with approval from many of those on the Yes side. Both papers have different editors and were given free reign by their owners to come to their own conclusions.

After such a build-up, referendum results day itself was a bit of an anti-climax. Soon after polls closed at 10 p.m. it became brutally clear this wasn’t going to be a nail biter. The head of polling company YouGov pointed to new figures suggesting No would win and said he was 99% certain the survey was accurate. As much as there were doubts over the polls for much of the campaign, for someone to put his neck on the line that far told its own story.

Then from the minute the first result came in and Clackmannanshire was the centre of the world’s attention, it was obvious. That area was designated by many as a guaranteed Yes vote – it went the other way.

Scott Reid (right) believes the referendum was good for Scotland. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

We set to work putting out several editions throughout the night, culminating in an 8 a.m. special edition, our work being rewarded by huge sales increases throughout that week well ahead of the Scottish market.

In the end, the result came in as 55% No, 45% Yes. So was there any point? Well, yes. It opened up a debate about who we are and what kind of country we want. It engaged almost the entire population in politics.

It proved that, when people know every single vote counts and it’s an issue they really care about, they will come out in numbers. It allowed voting for 16 year olds and 17 year olds, which proved to be such a success I suspect it will be carried over to regular Scottish Parliament elections.

And it has worked in Scotland’s interests, as it has made it clear that this little country in the north of the U.K. cannot be taken for granted.

Animal populations around here fluctuate noticeably from year to year with weather, disease, and predators all having an impact. This week we’ll discuss two species that have been affected in recent years: common raccoons and Tricolored Blackbirds.

A common raccoon in a pine tree next to Mitchell cabin where there’s no hunting allowed.

During my 39 years in West Marin, I’ve seen the number of raccoons and grey foxes simultaneously soar, plunge, and soar again. It’s happened several tines, and the culprit has usually been distemper, a viral disease that’s spread by inhalation and is fatal about half the time. It attacks the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, as well as the spinal cord and brain.

At the moment, the coast’s raccoon population appears to be thriving. In fact, raccoons are doing well nationwide. This wasn’t always the case. In the first three decades of the last century, the popularity of raccoon coats — especially for riding in convertibles — resulted in the animals being so heavily hunted and trapped that the common raccoon became far less common.

When prices for raccoon pelts eventually dropped, the number of raccoons made a comeback. Then it was television that took a toll on their population. For example, only about 388,000 were killed in the 1934-35 hunting season, Virginia C. Holmgren writes in Raccoons: In Folklore, History & Today’s Backyards. But in the 1950s, three TV episodes about Davy Crockett started popularizing coonskin caps to where 5.2 million animals were taken in the 1976-77 hunt. The average pelt sold for about $20.

A drop in pelt prices once again greatly reduced the take in subsequent years. This past February, 490,361 raccoon pelts were sold at the North American Fur Auction in Nevada, but fetched only $14.05 to $21.61 apiece. “Raccoon and bobcat prices [$73.25 to $393.49] didn’t exactly tank, but were lower than previous levels,” the Nevada Trappers Association reported afterward.

Fall colors on the deck.

Around Mitchell cabin, a few of the birds that at first glance appear to be Red-winged blackbirds are actually Tricolored Blackbirds. Just below the red patch on their wings is a small patch of white feathers, which is hard to see except when their wings are outspread. ______________________________________________________________

When flying, a Tricolored Blackbird’s white feathers are visible below and behind its red feathers. — Audubon photo by Linda Pittman

The color of that patch of feathers is the key to identification. If it’s yellow, you have a Red-winged blackbird. If it’s white, you have a Tricolored.

Tricolored Blackbirds were once one of the most common birds in California and until recent years lived on Point Reyes in great numbers. A few years back, ornithologist Rich Stallcup, who died in 2012, wrote that 30 years of bird surveys had found that “on outermost Point Reyes…. the winter population has ranged from 4,500 to 11,000 individuals…. Perhaps 8 to 10 percent of the world population.”

However, when the Horick Ranch folded in 2000 and the Point Reyes National Seashore took possession of it, the Park Service removed the cows and the dairy shut down, Stallcup noted. “This significant reduction in foraging opportunities may have — and have had — a serious impact on the size of the colony, which has dropped from about 1,500 nests in 2000 to less than 650 in 2003.”

Although Stallcup initially conceded that the dramatic drop in the number of Tricoloreds on Point Reyes could be within the range of normal fluctuation, several months later he sounded an alarm. “For the first time in many years, Tricolored Blackbirds are not now (August 2004) nesting in Point Reyes National Seashore. This condition is probably due to reduced foraging opportunities.”

In other parts of the state, Tricoloreds are also struggling to survive. _________________________________________________________________

A variety of blackbirds show up together at least twice a day to peck birdseed off the railing of the deck. But as seen in this photo from 2013, there were far more of them around here a year ago.

“In the 19th Century, Tricolored Blackbird flocks were described as so numerous ‘as to darken the sky,’” the Audubon website notes. “Over just the last 70 years, the Tricolored Blackbird population has decreased by more than 80 percent.” And the decline is continuing. The number of Tricoloreds in California fell by 44 percent to 145,000 in the past three years alone, The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 5.

“The reasons for this decline are many, but the loss of marsh and nearby foraging habitats along the coast and in the Central Valley is the main issue,” according to Audubon. “In more recent years, the species has become dependent on agricultural lands, with most of the largest colonies nesting in grain fields.

“A real dilemma develops because Tricolored young typically have not yet left the nest before the time farmers harvest their crop, and harvesting destroys Tricolored Blackbird nests and young. In some cases as many as 20,000 nests have been lost in a single field.”

“As part of an effort to save the species, Audubon California and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are leading a program that pays dairy farmers to delay harvesting their silage crops through the nesting season,” The Times added.

Here at Mitchell cabin we’re trying to do our part by making sure that hungry blackbirds regardless of age or species can find the birdseed they need to thrive. ________________________________________________________________

News from the great outdoors is often fascinating, of course. Here’s a headline I spotted online last week.

Now let’s get this straight. Who’s ambushing whom? — Reuters article as headlined in Google News

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