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Peter Britt planted this, Peter Britt built that

his name seems to pop up wherever I am at.

On benches and gardens, near giant tree plaques

And upon any sign among Jacksonville facts

In the 1850s, its said, he arrived in a cart

With a five-dollar bill, and loaded with art.

He found a good spot, built a cabin near me

Added a studio for photography

He put in pear orchards, and tended some bees

He even planted an Abyssinian banana tree

He studied the stars, and made the first wine,

Was kind to the locals, made paintings so fine

As a modern woman, I know it’s not woke

to have any semblance of crush on this bloke.

Alas, he’s a white man from an old century

(Which these days is not in-fashion to be)

I hope he’s not cancelled, I hope people see

The way that Britt found his way into me

A bon vivant! The artistic type!

Yet roughty-toughtly in his own right

Oh, Peter Britt, the Renaissance man

Even these days, I admit

I am a fan.

(poem and art by Christina Ammon)

Thank you to A Greater Applegate for supporting homegrown writers! Click image below for more information!



I don’t know if I’m an Artist, but I do know I’m a person who loves doing art. I especially like it when the weather is inclement—as it is in deep winter and again, now, in the knife-sharp heat of July.

It is unlikely that I will ever host an art opening, sell a painting, or get an accolade of any kind. That’s ok. For me, drawing and watercoloring is not much about achievement, but about letting go: of productivity, of time-keeping, of money-making, perfectionism, of getting there, tidying up, or securing admiration. It’s about letting go of control in general. I paint to get “off-the-clock” of life.

Every now and then, though, I like to acquire a technique. I’ve worked on conveying textures: metal, wood, dirt. Lately, I’ve been wanting to know about painting glass. So last week, as the temperatures rose, I booked a watercoloring class with Rosie Taylor at The Miners Bazaar in Jacksonville

I’m a huge fan of Rosie and the Project Cafe she has created. Her “crooked lil’ house’ is a setting right out of my childhood fantasies: color everywhere, front porch rocking chairs, fun things to eat. It’s a ‘Villa Villa Kula’ -sort of atmosphere—minus, of course, Mr. Nillson, or a horse on the front porch—but full of whimsical art and the sense that anything could happen. She serves both wine and coffee—which pretty much seals the deal for me—but also galettes and grilled cheeses and shepherd’s pies and tuna sandwiches-- and something to drink called ‘giggle water.’ I have not been to every café on the west coast, nevertheless, I hearby designate The Miners Bazaar as the best cafe on the West Coast

On the afternoon of my lesson, it was nice and cool inside. I ordered a Rhubarb-Bay “shrub” cooler (a formulation by local creative, Liz Bretko from Über Herbal) and then we set ourselves up at a wide table. The artistic subject at hand: a photograph I’d took of a wine glass full of brightly-colored rosé.

It’s usually a color that inspires me to paint a thing. Somehow, only by mixing the hue on my palette and getting it on paper do I feel I have enjoyed the color to the fullest extent possible. For a good while, I was in love with Blue Majorelle. I first met the color in Morocco, where it freshens the walls and flower pots in the public garden of the now deceased fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. I swear: just looking at this cool, clean color actually seemed to cool the hot Marrakech air.

(I’ve since learned that the color, derived from Lapis stone, was named after the French artist who designed the garden, Jacques Majorelle. He went on to patent the color, which is patently ridiculous: How can someone own a color? Especially considering it originally appeared in Berber cloaks and Moroccan tiles. I guess even colors can be colonized).

I have loved other colors, as well: the shifting cinnamon sands of the Sahara Desert and, closer by, the California poppies in my own yard; they look plugged into an electrical socket. I have also loved the sweet orange of Italy’s happy hour “Aperol Spritz”, and have loved Golden Gate Bridge red so much that I bought one of the colored pencils they sell to tourists in the warming hut below it.

But, at this moment, my color de jour is a particular shade of orange-pink in a glass of rosè that I drank at a supper club a few weeks ago at the Applegate wine country venue, Vista 222. I don’t know if it was the way the dusky sunset sky bounced off of it, or my super-convivial mood, but the orange-pink glow entranced me. By turns it said ‘watermelon picnics,’ ‘ripe strawberries’ and ‘swimming pools’ and also said ‘flamingos,’ ‘Miami,’ and ‘summer vacation.’ I tried to paint it when I got home, but kept running into a problem: How to paint the wineglass itself. I tried using gray—isn’t glass a sort of gray?—but in the end, the image looked ashen and smudgy, which worked against that cool crisp glass of summer goodness that I wanted to depict.

Rosie helped me with that right away—showing me how to use purple and blues to retain the coolness of glass. She showed how to leave blank spots to add a sense of light and reflection. We painted and chatted and passed afternoon until the shop was long closed, and I’d finished off an entire block of cheese. I didn’t quite capture the pop of the color of that rosé—which was more of an issue of the type of paint I was using—but I did learn a thing or two about painting glass.

And, most importantly, I achieved my goal for that hot July day: To completely and thoroughly enjoy myself.

If you are curious about painting, but I recommend this book by local artist Mindy Carpenter (who does the art for our beloved Pennington Farms): Carpe Diem: An Illustrated Life

*Thank you to A Greater Applegate for supporting homegrown writers. For more information about this amazing .org, click the image below:

Updated: Jul 24

The Applegate Valley is classified as a Mediterranean climate. Why aren't we on a Mediterranean schedule?

I walked into Trader Joes a couple weeks ago and was surprised to see, amid the various potted herbs that crowd the entrance, a collection of ready-to-plant olive trees for sale. Olive trees? Could our climate really support olive trees?

According to the Köppen climate classification system, The Applegate Valley is indeed deemed “Mediterranean”—which means abundant sunshine, hot, dry summers and mild winters. I love the sound of that. For one, it puts The Applegate Valley in the same genre of some of my favorite places on earth: Morocco, Italy, and Spain. It also implicates all things al fresco: dining, gathering, and walking in the woods. It bodes well for gardens, too. My front yard Rock Rose is bright, my porch Jasmine fragrant, and the potted fig trees I’ve been nursing for five years are still hanging in there.

But the one thing we don’t have (aside from the actual Mediterranean) is the Mediterranean schedule—that body-friendly rhythm that allows you to lay low during the hottest part of the day and then spark up again when things cool down. Spain is particularly well-known for this lifestyle. They happily hang their “Closed” signs around 3 pm and retreat indoors. After 6 pm, they return to the streets and open their shops again. As the sun sets, you can feel life zing back to the cafes and inspiration return to the blood. Night markets open up and are populated with cheer.

For some reason, we don’t adapt to our own heat in that way. Maybe because it didn’t used to be so hot around here, so we're yet to catch up with climate change. As it is now, most of our local wineries close for the day at 5:00 pm-- just when the mood for drinking and relaxing begins to set in. The evening events that do happen, often start early—right during peak heat. I went to an outdoor concert last weekend that started when it was still 95 degrees out. Fortunately, the savvy host planned ahead, erected shade structures, and strung up misters. Still, most people did not show up till around 7 pm—an hour before the show was scheduled to end.

Going to the Farmers Market in July and August can be tricky, too. I’m pretty committed to it, though, and so drive my roasting little VW Golf down the road to shop. I get my lettuce from the first stand and then pace across the hot, dusty field for the icy cup of Horchata what waits on the other side. With body alarm bells now in full panic mode, I hunt for a piece of shade and watch the band sweat it out.

I’ll admit, sometime I don’t make it out at all in the afternoons. It’s not just physical toll of the heat that paralyzes, but there is a mental component as well. When the temperature tops 90, I grow cranky and unmotivated—even depressed. This afternoon agitation is well-documented—and was even given the name “Acedia” in the monastic literature of the Middle Ages. This word captures the listlessness and loss-of-faith that afflicted the monks at midday “when the sun moves slowly, or not at all, and the day seems to be 50 hours long.” (Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus, #12). You might know it as “The Noonday Demon."

Contending with this Noonday Demon wouldn’t take anything too dramatic. It doesn’t require a siesta-schedule, or eating dinner at 10 pm—as in Spain. A slight shift would do it—say, holding events from 7:00-10:00 pm. That way locals would have time to shake the grass clippings off their pants, take a shower, and then patronize the local wineries. I love the idea of gathering and enjoying the valley’s exhale of heat together, of feeling our energy rise as the sun sinks, and celebrating the magical onset of dusk—a moment my friend Anna calls “The Sunset Magazine” hour.

Maybe Trader Joes is trying to tell us something. I skeptically bought the olive tree and am going to plant it on the high part of my property. We'll see how it goes. I suspect the Applegate Valley isn’t quite Mediterranean enough, but if it actually takes root, it might be time to reconsider our schedules.

*While most of The Applegate wineries close at 5:00, there are a few wonderful exceptions. Check out:

-Thursday music by the river at Red Lily.

-Friday night music at Schmidt Vineyards.

-There is also Friday evening live music in the shady gardens of The Applegate Country Club

Thank you A Greater Applegate for supporting homegrown writers. For more info about this great .org, click the image below:

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