Vegan Above the Flood Plain

It has been an eventful week living here just outside Oroville, CA near the Oroville dam and spillway. Our little part of the world made national and international headlines this weekend when our damaged spillway, and untested emergency spillway started to look compromised to the officials monitoring the situation…

Here’s a bit of video I took today (2/16/2017) of the Feather River running near downtown Oroville:


The weather on Sunday Feb 12th 2017 was clear and sunny, a welcome change from the unrelenting rain and over cast skies of the past week. I drove down to Davis, CA to meet up with a friend for lunch and to see the new Manetti Shrem Art Museum on the U.C. Davis campus. I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area, the museum is free and parking free on weekends.

I arrived back home to the hills above Oroville at 3:30pm, chatted with my husband, walked outside on the back deck — and then both our cell phones chimed, with a “Severe Alert” text message “Flash Flood Warning this area til 4:15 PM PST. Avoid flood areas.”

Was this a mistake we wondered? We aren’t in a flood zone… but we checked the news and saw that the Butte County Sheriff had announced an immediate mandatory evacuation for all of downtown and south Oroville, as well as much of the area I had just driven through on my way back from Davis. People were to leave immediately and seek higher ground, those in Oroville were directed towards the city of Chico to the north. The area we live in is above and behind the dam, so it was safe for us to stay put. As we watched the news, seeing lines of people driving out of town, we felt very grateful for our location. But the situation had us on edge and slightly unnerved.  Helicopters buzzed over head, both news and those working on the problem. The spillway had been damaged some days before, a large gouge of damage was growing, and with the lake exceeding the top of the emergency spillway, officials feared that untested area might fail leading to a huge release of water, mud and debris.

On Monday, reality sank in, we wondered if we had enough food on hand to last for a while. There was uncertainty about the duration of this event — and worst case scenarios might have us trapped up here for a week or more. My husband decided to venture down to the small local market & gas station near us. The place was mobbed — long lines, no gas available. Tim looked around and was surprised to find that the kind of food we were looking for – vegetables and fruit WAS available. He picked up some fresh and frozen veggies, tomatoes, apples and a few other things to tide us over. (Luckily we do have a well stocked pantry — a necessity when living a distance from town)  He noticed that the food isles in the center of the store — chips, soda and packaged quick foods were almost completely bare! Maybe, in times of scarcity, it pays to be vegan? : )

Thankfully the mandatory evacuation was lifted the next day, changed to a “warning” — people came back, businesses opened again. But the threat is still there, and we have FEMA, DWR, National Guard, local law enforcement and Cal Fire all camping out in the marina downhill. Helicopters continue to fly overhead dropping one-ton bags of boulders to shore up the hill under the emergency spillway. Things will not return to “normal” anytime soon.

Here’s quick and comforting soup recipe I tried during this stressful time, courtesy of  the “Fresh Princess” on YouTube, “1 Pot, 5 Ingredient Pasta con Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas). All these ingredients were in my pantry already!




From Diaries to Journals to Blogs…

I’m just going to ignore the dismal subject of politics for now and jump into a new subject, journal keeping! The topic of keeping diaries, journals or more modern blogs has been on my mind lately, and so I took the time to reflect on this a little. Realizing that journal keeping had been part of my ancestry, on both sides of the family gave me pause. Interesting! Both my material grandmother, her sister and their father kept journals quite regularly. And several years ago,  I was delighted and fascinated to learn my Great Great Grandfather on my father’s side had kept journals as well!


Elsie (on left), and Mae


My maternal grandmother Elsie Winter Sproul and her sister Mae Winter both kept journals, I’m not sure how consistent they were, but the journals I have in my possession date back to the 1950s. They both “repurposed” daily calendars, small leather bound promotional calendars given out by insurance firms, some had been made into five year journals. Mae lived with Elsie during these years, as her health was quite bad due to the after effects of a bad car accident which ended her career as a school Principal in the Midwest. Typical content from both women ranged  from noting visitors to the house, recently send correspondence,


Elsie and Mae’s Yearbook Diaries


recent cultural activities they had attended, special meals and gatherings and always a note of the weather.

Diary entry
My birth, briefly noted in my maternal Grandmother’s diary

My own birth is noted in my grandmother’s journal — briefly as was her custom, but it was fun to find it there. I was born two years after her beloved sister died, and hope my presence brought her new focus and comfort after such a loss.

F.W.Winter Memoranum 1977-78
F.W. Winter’s “Memorandum” from 1877-78 and photo as a young man.

Mae and Elsie’s father, my Great Grandfather Frederick W. Winter was an avid journal or “Memorandum” keeper. He was also a homeopathic doctor in Nebraska and Wyoming.  I have one early diary/scrapbook he kept from around 1877, and several from the end of his life in the 1930’s. Frederick read and wrote English and German, and was very interested in literature and music, religion, modern culture and medical advancements. It’s hard to make out the writing, and I need to spend more time trying to decipher the content of both of these journals.

F.W.Winter's journal
F.W.Winter’s journal from 1935, written in a physician’s appointment book.

The notebook from 1935 does start with an entry about attending the Pasadena Rose Parade in Southern California with my Grandparents who he was living with at the time.

My own mother, on the other hand, was a spotty journal writer. She kept a diary in her junior high years, but it was very superficial, probably because she feared her mother would look at it!

She did keep a journal off and on when I was young, and more consistently after my Dad died in 1999, which I found and kept after she left us in 2010. It is hard to read, raw and wrenching, but it does show her path of accomplishment as she tackles the tasks my father used to handle, specifically financial management and car maintenance! It was good to see her growing pride at handling tasks that she hadn’t had to deal with before. She also mentions friends, politics, books, music and travel — but throughout, her loss looms large and never abates.

Family photo
My Great Great Grandfather William Gardner, taken when he was in his 60’s.

Another family journalist, and most recent “find” was my Great Great Grandfather on my father’s side, William Gardner. Through the magic of, a small Gardner side family reunion was gathered several years ago, and I learned of his journals. My cousin let me borrow the two she had (we suspect many had been lost through the years), and I photographed the pages to keep before returning them to her. William was born and married in Hudson, New Hampshire, then began to move his family west, farming for a time in Utica, Indiana and Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and eventually settling in San Jose California around 1872. In San Jose he owned a grocery store, owned land and help settle people into downtown San Jose, and was instrumental in starting a new school district for the children of people moving into the area — the Gardner District still bears his name. His son George W. Gardner was an fruit grower, his daughter, my grandmother Dorette grew up on a ranch to the west of Bird Avenue in Willow Glen.

family journal
Advice to my children… W. Gardner

One of the last pages of the journal from his later years says “Advice to my children, never to leave Cal. on any condition or under any circumstances…” It was “the best place in the world to live or die” (not a dramatic bone in his body!). He did say this with some authority, for he had traveled extensively throughout the U.S., British Columbia, even visiting the “Sandwich Islands” and undergoing the onerous overland crossing through Panama before the canal was built. One interesting note for me, as I now live in Oroville, CA, in Butte County — he once camped at the foot of the Sutter Buttes which I can see from this area on a clear day!

My own journal habit was first inspired by reading the “Harriet the Spy” books, and I admit at first they were definitely “spy notebooks”. They evolved over the years to be more of a personal diary, and probably took the place of years of therapy! Much less expensive, but definitely a place to pore out thoughts and feeling, fears and hopes. I’ve always kept to the format of a notebook, preferring a large capacity spiral notebook like students use (or used to before tablets and laptops).

Pile of notebooks
My pile of journals, dating back to the early 1970’s! Not as elegant as my ancestors…

Looking forward, I’ve been interested in the new form of journaling called “bullet journals”, which are part journal, part “to do” list, and part long term goal setting. I love how the need to document our thoughts and reflect on our lives, grows and evolves with each new generation.

Do you journal? What is your format and how do you use it in your life?