An NYC musician

A shoot for a story on at home recording innovations for musicians for The Christian Science Monitor

A week, a friend, a car and a whole lotta West Virginia...

We covered the state pretty well. Coal miners, farmers, mountains and blight.

West Virginia

Near Dent's Run covered bridge just outside of Morgantown, WV. Magic light makes everything lovely.


Buddhist 9/11 Lantern Memorial along the Hudson River.

Janis Miglavs - Trip to China

When I tell people that I’m headed back to China to finish a book on Chinese Vineyards and Wineries, the common reaction is: “I didn’t even know that China had vineyards and wineries.” Well, yes they do. In fact, China has more vineyard acreage than the United States and produces more wine than Germany. Raise your hand proudly if you knew that.

And yes, I just landed in Beijing two hours ago with a list of five vineyards and wineries to visit in the northeast part of China. This blog will be about the adventures, people and culture I encounter. And judging from my first trip in May, we should have lots of fun. On that adventure, a Chinese winery and wine region even hired me. (That should look good on the ol’ resume.)

For those who don’t know me, I’m a Sherwood, Oregon-based, former National Geographic shooter turned commercial photographer who specializes in the wine industry, among other subjects. I’ve done two books about wineries, and the latest, Oregon The Taste of Wine, just won the prestigious Benjamin Franklin gold medal for the best Regional book in North America.

-Janis Miglavs

Visit Janis Miglavs' blog

NWP Tracks Over Old Highway

This short viaduct crosses the old Highway 101 route now called Walker Road, as the former Northwestern Pacific rails double back to climb the grade to Ridgewood Summit. From there, they descend Laughlin Ridge south to Redwood Valley and Ukiah, then on to Sonoma and Marin counties.

The local paper reported the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for starting freight service from near Santa Rosa up to Willits on these tracks, which is very good news indeed! It would be such a shame to lose this valuable infrastructure after all the work that was done to build it in the first place, more than a hundred years ago, and the North Coast Railroad Authority is working hard to move it forward.

* * *

This post concludes one full year of Willits Daily Photo.
When I started this blog on March 13, 2008, I had no idea where it would take me within Little Lake Valley, or if I could come up with 365 subjects to post. I feel amazingly blessed to have a new circle of international friends with city daily photo blogs of their own, offering insights and discoveries that enrich my perceptions of the world. Their kindness here in the comments has been immense, and I will treasure them always. I encourage everyone to see more City Daily Photo blogs at their portal website.

This a good point for me to retire Willits Daily Photo.
There are more photos in my archives that I'd like to share, and more new pictures I'm sure I'll feel compelled to snap, but the time commitment of "every day" is more demanding than some might imagine. I'm not one to call this a "Daily" photo blog, and then not post daily. I want to keep learning and growing and building skills, and time is what I need for that. But, I have an alternative! Built into this blog is a link to my Willits Photo Overflow blog, and that's where I'll be posting additional images from time to time. They could be out-of-season, or different views of things already posted here, or entirely new images of Willits and Little Lake Valley, and possibly further afield. They will be posted sproadically and without warning, but if you would like to "follow" that blog to catch what comes up, you are more than welcome. It's my way of not having to go "cold turkey" on photo blogging altogether.

If you are new to this blog, and want to see what has been posted throughout the previous 365 days, you have several options. You can scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the words "Older Posts" on the lower right, and keep doing that as far back as you want to go. Or you can go to the sidebar (right column of this page) and find the Archives link, arranged by year and month (they can each be expanded by clicking on the little triangular arrows). Or you can go to the sidebar and look for the list of "Labels" to click on those for loosely categorized groups of posts for each idea. I expect to be expanding and refining that label list sometime soon.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your visits and comments.

Click here for Willits Photo Overflow.

CWR Water Tank

This old, wooden water tank still stands at the ready along the old California Western Railroad (the Skunk Train) tracks just as they head west to Northspur and Ft. Bragg far beyond. As you cross the tracks on Highway 101, look east and you'll see it. There's a pipe mechanism that extends out to go above the tender tank, to refill any steam locomotive awaiting in need.

No news on whether the Skunk will run more frequently out of Willits this year or not. All of the events posted on their website right now are out of the Ft. Bragg depot. The coast end of the line gets far more tourism business than we do, so it's easy to imagine Willits will get the short end of the stick in this economy. The Ft. Bragg depot and trains have been featured in Racing With the Moon and, I think, The Majestic.

They Have a System

They have a system, these two men, as they find their way around town to do errands on any given day. One seems to shift forward to blaze the path across the day's obstacles, to find the safe path. The other seems to lean back in counter balance, blind and holding his head high, poised to meet the day, in complete faith that his comrade will not lead him astray.

Willits High School Hallway

The floor seems to float in the downstairs hallway of the old building at the high school. Generations of Willits Wolverines have had their stories of adolescent drama and despair, played out upon this stage. Hang in there, kids. Your brains are still growing, and better perspective will come soon enough. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Eye Doctor

This is another residential type building converted to a medical office. I like the symmetry, appropriately enough, for an eye doctor's establishment. I also like the shadows cast by the bare branches of a sycamore, as the winter sun lowers in the west. Elsewhere, ornamental plum and pear trees are just beginning to open their blooms. Soon, it will be spring again.

It's countdown time at Willits Daily Photo. This blog was started last year on March 13th. There's just a few more days to go.

Mimosa Blossoms for Women's Day

The only mimosa tree (also called acacia) I've noticed in town cascades over the barbecue hut next to the Masonic Lodge on Main Street. They used to have salmon barbecues here as an annual fundraiser. Right now the blossoms are at their peak.

March 8th is International Women's Day, but is almost never observed in the United States. The first time I heard of it was when I lived in Hungary a dozen years ago. Saretta pointed out on her Molfetta blog that Italians traditionally give women yellow mimosa blossoms for this occasion. So today, I offer these to you, wherever you are.

Just four more days will complete a year of Willits Daily Photo.

Miner's Lettuce

Our recent spate of cool rain successfully conjured secret gardens of Miner's Lettuce, tucked away where no one will notice it (next to the Odd Fellows building). This native annual herb has disk shaped leaves around tiny clusters of white flowers. The gold miners of the 1850s near Sacramento were said to have eaten these as an early season source of vitamin C, to prevent scurvy. It seems I seldom see them growing wild, except along urban margins like this, and even then only in forgotten spots where someone hasn't "cleaned up the weeds".

Construction Progress

Work continues apace on the office construction on the site of Mason Cook's towing and automotive services lot. When the developer started, it was to be a mixed retail frontage, but an engineering firm down the street spotted it, and grabbed up a lease on the whole new and spacious complex. It's good to hear that the firm needs to expand and add staff, and good to see builders employed. Before the recent rains this past week, the roof was already on.

Drinking Fountain

Before this most recent series of storms embraced us with welcomed rain, I explored a greenbelt trail up in Brooktrails. I hadn't realized they had an old parcourse, children's playground and this softball field along the way. Why am I featuring the drinking fountain? I just read in Wednesday's paper that, here in Little Lake Valley anyway, the water crisis has been averted by the water falling from the sky! Our supply reservoirs are nearly topped off, which should carry us through the coming dry season if we are sensible about its use.

Yay! Elaine will stop talking about drought all the time!

Casino Name Change

The Sherwood Valley Pomo Rancheria has the small Black Bart Casino on its land, which is now undergoing a name change to, simply, Sherwood Valley Casino. As with all American Indian gaming businesses, it provides important income for the local band or tribe, and can employ Pomos and non-Pomos alike.

For those unfamiliar with the name Black Bart, he was a legendary stagecoach robber in the late 1800s in northern California, accomplishing one such hold-up just on the other side of Ridgewood Summit, to the south of Little Lake Valley. That Wells Fargo stage happened to have Hiram Willits as a passenger that day. Charles Bolles, aka Black Bart, was a white man, so "black" didn't have racial significance, rather he adopted the name from a popular fictional character of the time. He eventually served time in San Quentin. I'm not really one for romanticizing criminals of any era, so I personally welcome this casino name change.

Abalone Ash Tray

Outside the front entrance to Anna's Asian House restaurant, guests may stub out their cigarettes in this carefully presented abalone shell.

Sport fishing of abalone is only allowed in California north of San Francisco, and there are strict limits on the number and size anyone can gather. The "bag limit" is only three a day, 24 a season. The edible part is the big foot muscle of this big flat snail, and it has a flavor something like scallops. The meat can be quite tough unless it's pounded thoroughly with a toothy kitchen mallet. My grandfather used to prepare them for us, but it was a rare treat. Because the resource is limited, no commercial sale of abalone is allowed.

Having said all that, there's hardly an old barn or farmhouse in this region that doesn't have a few of these "red" abalone shells around.

Officer Down

On Saturday, mourners gathered at Willits High School to honor Officer Dave Tiller, who finally succumbed to cancer last Wednesday. Members of law enforcement from all over the area gathered along with local family and friends in the Auditorium, then proceeded to the Community Center for a reception. As with the recent Smith memorial, the Boy Scouts set out American flags to line Main Street and Commercial in Tiller's honor. We are all moved by a community united in grief.

March Theme Day: Glass

Twenty five years later, this art project by Willits High School students still brightens the row of windows on the side wall of the City Council Chambers. About a dozen panes in all, they depict cultural and natural history themes of our area. Arts education has many lasting effects, and this investment in it was sponsored in part by an Exemplary Arts Grant from the California Arts Council.

For more examples of glass seen in cities around the world, click here to view thumbnails for all participants in today's City Daily Photo Bloggers theme.

Life Itself

On Friday, California Governor Schwarzenegger declared a water emergency for the state, and warned that we can't count on upcoming years to be any better. Leaking toilets, cracked underground pipes, leaving the water running while brushing teeth - all add up to wasted gallons of this necessity of life. Some people can't stand to drink plain, pure water. I savor it, like this glass at Ardella's Diner.

The Mortuary

There's one mortuary in town, Anker-Lucier, located on the corner of Commercial and School Streets. The red tile roof with white stucco is rare in this county, and reminds me of the Spanish Colonial Revival style found in more southerly parts of the state. There were a couple of Mexican land grants in Mendocino, but the Spanish era missions came no further north than Sonoma county.

I did not personally know Dave Tiller, but earlier this week he lost his long battle with pancreatic cancer. I do know that he was a police officer who touched many lives here in Willits, and his memorial will be this Saturday. Photos of a barbecue to raise funds for his treatment trips to San Francisco were posted here last June.

Corraled Black Cattle

Little Lake Valley offers wide swathes of pastureland, but I read recently that the dry winter we've been having has slowed the natural growth of grass on the fields and hillsides. What currently look like putting greens ideally should be full of lush grazing by now. At a season not normally requiring it, ranchers have had to purchase supplemental feed for their herds. It's a clear indication of the fragile balance of nature with local economics. The Willits Action Group is exploring what it would take to revive local grain and legume farming, and have started by investing in small scale storage facilities, and offering shares in the commodities to the local population. If the capacity and demand can be put in place, the our area's own farmers might be willing to fill the void.

Bunny Dumpster

I'm not entirely clear on what all the spray-paint tagging on the one dumpster means, but at least I can read the word "bunny" on the right. Can anyone tell me what it says on the left?

These were just the outer edge of a large collection of commercial sized dumpsters, apparently being stored on the big lot next to the Solid Wastes of Willits transfer station. They turned out to be fun photo subjects, so I may have to post some more from that excursion. The large structures in the background are part of the Willits Redwood Company mill, across Blosser Lane.

Water Feature

This big vacant lot is smack-dab in the middle of "old" Willits, and is right next to the Deco house on the Hiram Willits property seen yesterday. To the south is the Van Hotel. To the west is St Francis in the Redwoods church, at the intersection of Main and Commercial Streets. I've been in Willits since 2001, and this is how it has always looked - puddles in the winter, dry potholes in the summer. It would be great to keep it open with a vast food and medicine producing garden, with all the Highway 101 traffic lumbering by, but maybe the owner has other plans. Right now, it serves as a sort of downtown art installation, with random amoeba shapes dispersed all across it. A sea of holes.

The deeper history is that the Willits Hotel used to stand here. It had over a hundred rooms, and included all sorts of traveler's amenities, but was torn down more than fifty years ago. I would have thought anything else built here since then would still be standing, but I don't have more information about it. It catches rain. Hurray for rain!

Deco in Blue

Moving away from the Craftsman Challenge set forth by Laurie in South Pasadena, this house is a rarity in Willits. Although it's without much of the embellishment associated with Art Deco, this building includes many of the elements that followed on from the post-Craftsman era. Extremely simple and lean in comparison to the woody struts and and natural materials of Craftsman design, and even further removed from the lacy Victorians, the glass brick flanking the front door was a huge leap in visual ideas. Also note the oval curve of the front step overhang. This is located across the street from the Van Hotel, under several big redwood trees. The booklet that told me about Churchill staying at the Van tells me this was constructed on the site of the old Hiram Willits farmstead in 1936. That must have been a shock. The former Willits house was a two-story Victorian dating back to the pioneer's settlement of 1857. Now, in its turn, this house is historic as well.

Shuster's Truck Lot

The "domino" effect of the shrinking economy will likely put the squeeze on any number of local businesses. The Shuster family has been around here for generations, and their fleet of white trucks are commonly seen on the roads of the region. Let's hope they "keep on truckin'" for a long time to come.

Winter Bee

Willow catkins are opening up these days, offering plenty of pollen for bees to gather in their leg pouches.

Loose Caboose

The Loose Caboose is a popular sandwich eatery tucked away on Wood Street behind the Book Juggler, with their dining patio leading to the restaurant. As you step through the gate, this fantasy painting greets you with childlike conceptions of castle and rainbow and fairy, along with a "loose" caboose, unaided by a locomotive. The railroad theme is appropriate for a town with so many rail connections, and so many fantasies of seeing them all operate again.

Dog Laws

This sign was posted all around the periphery of the cemetery. I suppose the neighboring properties have livestock, and when mourners bring their pets some conflicts ensue. Tucked away on this edge of the lot, the grave of an infant lies, long gone in 1910.

Mariposa Metamorphosis

I wasn't around Willits for the beginnings of Mariposa Market, but I'm told they once were located in the shop spaces behind a wall I posted on this blog last spring. For the past decade, they have done business behind this iconic mural. Now, once again, they have metamorphosed into a new and larger space, right next door to the last one, on the site of the old Skunk Motel. They dedicated themselves to natural and organic foods, health products and clothing way back when only "hippies" were interested in such things. Today, they have more mainstream competition, but seem to be going strong on greater mainstream interest.

METALfx Employee Patio

The outdoor break area is too damp for comfort these days for employees of METALfx. A recent story in the local paper indicates far greater discomfort is looming for them if this manufacturing company decides to leave town. The hope is that they will sufficiently retrench by simply consolidating their two Willits plants into one. If that doesn't pencil out, 150 jobs will go somewhere else.