The Great Petaluma Squash Mystery

By way of background, we are in our second year of serving as caretaker to our new Habitat Landscape– the former front lawn. While we have remained generally faithful to the dictates of low water native plantings, I have also experimented with various other plants. To put it simply, if I get a seed, I’m inclined to plant it to see what happens.

A certain resident of the West Side, who sometimes writes as Emperor Norton II  gave us some acorn squash seeds. Now at this point I must step out of the narrative line to point out that I do not have a clue about squashes of any kind.  However, my wife said she liked acorn squash (although I don’t remember her ever eating one) so I planted the seeds.

And they grew. Lord, did they grow. Monster plants with monster fruit.

Now I, not knowing anything about what an acorn squash is supposed to look like, kept tending  the plants.  Then my wife suggested that they did not look like acorn squash and pointed one out at the grocery store.  Sure enough, they did not look the same.  But a photo will allow you to be the judge of what was growing in our Habitat…

Name That Squash

I presented the above “evidence” to the seed provider, Norton II and demanded an explanation. He demurred, harvested the evidence and returned home.

Later he submitted a written response–through his lawyer…


We have secured further evidence in the ongoing case of the Squash Caper (no not capers). 

It seems that the seed supplier–who now is hiding behind his lawyer (me) and refusing to talk to the press–was saving both acorn squash seed and spaghetti squash seed, and dried them appropriately.  But without admitting guilt or assuming responsibility (To quote  Simpson, himself a recovering attorney: “We admit nothing! We deny everything!  We demand uncontroverted proof!”), there is a possibility that when the seeds went into an envelope and got labeled, that seed labeled as acorn squash and given to one Frank Simpson, as part of a TARP (Total Acorn Reparation Program) Bailout might have been mislabeled and might have been in fact spaghetti squash seed.  

While we stipulate to the facts of the obvious results that what actually grew in Simpson’s yard did behave and look like a spaghetti squash, and in fact looks increasingly like a spaghetti squash as it gets closer to maturity, and in fact said squashes grown by Simpson are exhibiting a slight yellowing around the stem as they mature, we will not accept any financial or punitive responsibility for the resources expended by Simpson, his worker bees, or his habitat birds in the growing of spaghetti squash advertised as acorn squash, insofar as the seeds in question, once transfered to Simpson’s custody were no longer under constant surveillance and may have been switched by nefarious evildoers, and the planting of said seed was performed without observation by opposing counsel making it in fact impossible to be certain the source of the plants actually placed in the ground that produced the offensive squash. 

Furthermore, as Simpson has destroyed all evidence of the plants themselves by their removal from his habitat it is now claimed by us that the squash in question, presented by Simpson as evidence, cannot be confirmed as the squash that were growing in his habitat in that they were picked without the presence of  Norton II’s counsel to observe, and were in fact picked before they had the opportunity to reach their full potential as living spaghetti squashes.   

Because those raised by nuns were taught not to waste food, Norton II intends to keep the evidence presented by Mr. Simpson and see if they will continue to ripen in his root cellar and attain a more yellow color, at which point Norton II will attempt to consume them with homemade tomato sauce. 

Case closed

Dewey, Cheatum & Howe Esq et. al. etc.


READER NOTE: For an update on the Petaluma Strawberry Scene (Click Here)


9:00 AM–Do you know where your bed is?

Over the years I have witnessed and photographed many an interesting scene in P-Town. 

…Just when I think I have seen everything…

Tuesday morning, August, 25, 2009, I encountered the following in the parking lot of the former Mervyn’s store…

August 23 2009 004

Of course, one can think of many possible captions for this scene and readers are more than welcome to offer their own…August 23 2009 003

Perhaps this is a sign that a furniture store is going to move into the former Mervyn’s building! If so, they already have a potential customer…

August 23 2009 005

In the alternative, perhaps we are looking at a bed-napping victim?

Petaluma’s Vacant Homes–Holding Back The Blight

It is not “news” to report that the national recession has taken its toll on homeowners in the form of foreclosures.  Even a casual observer can see that Petaluma is also suffering from the foreclosure tsunami.

In some of Petaluma’s neighborhoods, more and more homes are sprouting  bank foreclosure notices… 


or “”For Sale” signs–sometimes two…

For Sale For Sale...

Vacant Homes

Unoccupied homes can become an eyesore if they are not maintained or, even worse, they can become an attraction for vandals or squatters. In some cities, squatters have moved in and established utilities, thus living rent-free until discovered. Since banks take forever to put a property up for sale, squatters can live for up to 18 months before being evicted.  For a TIme article on the situation in Stockton, Ca. (Click Here)

Fortunately, things have not gotten this bad in Petaluma. However, I do wonder if we may have more vacant homes than homeless people.

There is something you can do to help prevent a problem developing with an unoccupied home in your neighborhood.

City Code Enforcement

If there is a property in your neighborhood that you think is becoming a problem, you should contact Code Enforcement…

  • Go to their Web Page  and click on the link titled “On-line Complaint/Violation Form” (Preferred Method of Contact)
  • In the alternative, call the Code Enforcement Complaint Line at 707-778-4469

If you suspect drug and gang activity, call the Police Department directly at 707-778-4372.

If you have general questions, you can also contact Code Enforcement by e-mail at

Citizen reporting is essential, as City staffing levels do not permit pro-active enforcement.  The identity of those making inquiries or complaints is not disclosed.  They “… have no problems being the bad guy, so you don’t have to. Due to our lack of staffing, we may not be able to address every complaint right away, but we will get to it…Keeping your neighborhood clean and maintained is one of the best ways to deter crime and keep your property values up.”

As an aside, while this article focuses on coping with problems with unoccupied houses, you should also contact Code Enforcement if you have concerns about a house that is occupied.

When to Report

If something does not look or seem right, feel free to contact Code Enforcement or the Police Department as outlined above. Some signs to look for include…

  • Overgrown vegetation
  • Weeds that haven’t been cut or pulled
  • Graffiti
  • Piles of junk, trash and garbage.

Recently, a vacant home purchased in foreclosure was being remodeled for resale. The contractors left the house unattended with the front windows and garage door open–for two days. It was an open invitation for mischief.  Fortunately, a neighbor decided to call the police on the second night and they came out and secured the property.

Another current case involves a vacant foreclosed property with open windows, curtains blowing outside the window, and an unsecured garage door. In addition, newspapers, flyers and new phone books can be observed littering the front sidewalk…


In closing, keep in mind that even when a complaint is addressed by the City, there are usually additional delays because the process of identifying the owner (usually a bank) is quite cumbersome.  In some cities, such properties have become so numerous they have initiated legal action against the banks.

Let’s hope it does not come to that in Petaluma…

Petaluma Wine Institute vs.The Petaluma Gap


The officers & staff of The Internationale Instituto De Vino Wino (La Centre de l’Experience du Vin de Petaluma) have been in an absolute tizzy about all the talk about The Petaluma Gap Winegrower’s Alliance. Recently, they held  an emergency meeting at the Instituto to discuss the Petaluma Gap.

Just to assure the public, their parole officers were keeping close watch on them.

What follows is a partial transcript of the meeting…


Jerry Attrick–Senior Citizen Wine Consultant:  Hey, did you guys see the latest blog from Frances Rivetti? (Click Here)

Enchy Latta—Director of Catering: No, what’s she talking about now?

Jerry Attrick: The Petaluma Gap Winegrower’s Alliance. 

Enchy Latta: So what’s so special ’bout them? They’re no competition for the Instituto!

Frank–Chief Wino &  Solo Vine Manager (We have only one vine root): Wake up, Enchy! They’re for real.  You–and everyone in this room–are fictional characters. They make real wine. You only make and drink fictional wine. If I decide to quit drinking, you’ll all cease to exist!

Jerry Attrick: Quick, get Frank another glass of wine!!

Al Fresco–Restaurant Manager: Well, we may be fictional but business is down and we need to do something to compete with Rivetti and her Petaluma Gap conspirators!!!

Marthe Stuarda–Director of Protocol & Arbiter of Taste: You’re right Al. We need to close the Gap!! We need a Gap of our own!!

Sumo Cum Laude “Big Fish” Sashimi–Insituto Bouncer: How about the Petaluma Street Gap?…

Pet Pothole

Frank: Don’t be ridiculous! I just checked on our solo vine root and found the appellation solution!

It’s obvious! 

The Instituto’s new appellation will be…CRACKED ADOBE GAP!!Petaluma Gap 002Petaluma Gap 004

Sushi Tira-Misu–Food Director:  Super name! I’ll start work on the new menus!!

Petaluma Budget Woes

Petaluma Budget–More Hits Coming?

The short answer to the question—more than likely.


First–Consider the fact that local tax revenue from tourism is falling. For details, see the recent Press Democrat Story.

Second–County real estate assessed values declined for the first time in history, thus lowering revenue from real estate taxes (Press Democrat Story)

Finally–According to a database provided by the Sacramento Bee, the new California state budget will reduce or borrow the following from Petaluma’s City and redevelopment budgets:

• City of Petaluma $1,112,587
• Petaluma Community Development Commission $5,074,284

For additional information, check out the story and links on CaliforniaCityNews

These revenue shortfalls will play out in many aspects of our civic life–not the least of which is park maintenance. 

I recently commented on the state of affairs around the pond in Lucchesi Park and the Community Center.  Fortunately, the fountains have once again become operational. However, the pond still seems to be in need of attention. Finding the funds for this purpose will, I imagine, be extremely problematic.

…Lucchesi Pond…

Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 002Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 009Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 011Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 012Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 017

Petaluma Police K-9 Trials

I have always looked forward to the Annual Police K-9 Trials held each August in Petaluma.  K-9 units from around California  attend each year to paticipate in the various trials and competitions. 

Below are a few photos from this year’s competition held at Lucchesi Park on August 15, 2009.

NOTE: Photos from the August 2010 show are now available at Petaluma’s 13th Police K-9 Trials…K-9 Stars!

K-9 Unit from San Francisco Community College PDSF K-9

K-9 SearchK-9  Trials Search & Release

Interesting” K-9 Dog CollarK-9 Trials August 2009 030

Spectators included Mayor Torliatt as well as Marcella Guy, Diane Reilly Torres, and John Merrill of Petaluma Community Access (PCA).  PCA taped the events and you may expect a program in the future.PCA

Petaluma Pete was on hand (minus his piano) to capture the scenes on video.K-9 Trials August 2009 027

K-9 HandlersK-9 Trials August 2009 011

A Good Cart Samaritan…

From time to time, I am asked why there are no new  graffiti blogs and photos..

OK, here’s a new graffiti pix…

August 13 2009 Download 006

Another version of the question is why no new trashy trail pixs and rants about debris in our environment? Fortunately, a partial answer to this question is that the trails have been cleaned up a bit by volunteers.

However, if needs must, I present a new trashy trail pix… featuring a bicycle (to be precise, what is left of a bicycle) and a hubcap…

August 13 2009 Download 003

Yes, these urban problems remain in Petaluma. However, I tend to tune them out these days.

So, what is important? What still interests me?  The answer is simple– spontaneous efforts of individuals who tidy things up a bit in our fair city.  For example, this morning, a woman  decided to return an abandoned shopping cart to Long’s Drugs–3/4 of a mile away…

Good Samaritan

I wonder what she might have said to the store manager…

Petaluma–Summer 2009

In spite of  Washington wrangling over health care,  Sacramento budget battles, Sonoma County fuming over a proposed asphalt plant, and lawsuits against Petaluma  over the Planning Commission…


In spite of the recession, housing foreclosures, and unemployment…

…Life manages to go on….

People still…

Attend street markets and shows…

Summer 2009 012

Spend the day at a park…

Summer 2009 017

Wonder who or what took a large bite out of this tree…

Summer 2009 022

Take their dogs to Noah’s Bagels…

Summer 2009 016

Watch the geese and new “arrivals” in Lucchesi…

Summer 2015

Instituto Vino Advice…Part II

The staff of Petaluma’s Internationale Instituto De Vino Wino has been working deligently to complete a comprehensive response to the request for assistance from Vino Blues in New York City.

Tristan E. Isolde (Director of Cheap & Trashy Personal Counseling) has been heading up this effort. Vino Blues was seeking guidance on how to deal with friends who were, for lack of a better phrase, decidedly cheap. To view a copy of the letter and the initital response of the Instituto, (Click Here) 


Dear Vino Blues:

We are writing in follow-up to our initial response of  July 18, 2009. We will now address your questions in detail.


1.  My husband is pissed off and insulted,…Are these people insane? 

First, this is grounds for a duel. Your husband gets his choice of corkscrews; they do not.  We are not sure that they are insane but they are certainly living in a world of their own–must be very lonely. Minnie Da Moocher is sending a card suitable for the event. 

2.  Does it get any lower than$4 sparking wine? 

The only legitimate use for this product is to christen garbage barges. 

3.  Can these people be extraterrestrials? 

You do an injustice to extraterrestrials! 


How can they be stopped?  Who should they be reported to?  What retaliation does the Instituto suggest?  

Now these are serious questions.  Before deciding on a course of action, one must first determine, as best as one can, their motives: 

1.  Is it because they can’t afford anything else ?

We believe, based on the information provided, that the answer is “No.” 

2. Is it because they genuinely like what others call “cheap” wine? 

If the answer is “Yes,” THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO.  

If the answer is “No,”  please proceed to Item 3. 

3.  Is it because they don’t know any better? Have you, or others, “exposed” them to quality vin ordinaire? If they were exposed to a moderately priced wine (the vin ordinaires exclusively favored by the Instituto) would they detect the difference?  If so, would they admit it?  

If the answer is “No,” THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO. 

If the answer is that they should know better or have been exposed to the “good stuff” then we’re facing a major problem–They are cheap as opposed to thrifty; they are fixated on price without ANY regard for quality. They would not understand Oscar Wilde when he said: “He knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  

It is even more serious if they are guzzling Rothschild in private and passing out sparkling wine to their “friends.”


The obvious conclusion is that these are diehard tightwads beyond redemption.  As to whether they are as cheap with themselves as they are in public requires further investigation. We suggest hiring a private detective with 400mm telephoto and night optics to check out their drinking habits. 

If, on the other hand, they are capable of some degree of redemption, the Instituto suggests the following tactics:

  • To give them a picture of the dark side of cheap wine, consider a copy of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. 
  • Drop quotes from Homer: “Then the goddess, grey-eyed Athene, answered him: ‘Hold me now no longer, that am eager for the way. But whatsoever gift thine heart shall bid thee give me, when I am on my way back let it be mine to carry home: bear from thy stores a gift right goodly, and it shall bring thee the worth thereof in return.’ And whatsoever gift thou wouldest give me, let it be a thing to treasure.  Therefore I will make exchange of the presents, as I may. Of the gifts, such as are treasures stored in my house, I will give thee the goodliest and greatest of price.” 

If none of the above works….remember that physical assault is still a felony.  Horace, our counsel, will agree to defend you but please remember that he is very fond of Chateau Fleet Street.


Tristan E. Isolde

Director of Cheap & Trashy Personal Counseling

Newspaper Editorial Policies…

BACKGROUND–There is a controversy (at this time it is too soon to tell how serious) about the editorial policy of Petaluma’s local newspaper. The article below was pubished on the Petaluma 360 Blog site


Are You Mad At The Argus Courier?

Some of you may have received a communication (generally by e-mail) advising  how to register complaints about the Argus-Courier…

“Citizens and subscribers who feel the conduct and content of the Argus Courier is biased, unprofessional, or unethical can send complaints to The New York Times Company (owner and parent company of the Argus).”

I had to step back and think about the above–and interpret it a bit.

To suggest that the “conduct and content” of the paper may be “biased, unprofessional, or unethical” is something of an overstatement. I personally do not believe it to be the case insofar as the news stories are concerned.  Therefore, I have to assume that the concern is with the editorial policy of the paper.

When it comes to the Argus editorials, I have, from time to time, been know to take a shot at them on this blog.  But at the end of the day I am merely offering my opinion against the opinion voiced in the editorial.

The larger question is whether the Argus-Courier has value to you, the reader, as a source of news.  On that point, I think it does fairly well given its limitations of being a weekly publication. That, of course, is my opinion.

Also note that as a reader there are several oppotunities to react to editorials–or news stories for that matter–that get your dander up. Of course there is the traditional letter to the editor.

However, today you can provide instant feedback by

  • Posting to the Petaluma 360 Forums
  • Posting comments to an editorial or column  
  • Posting online comments to news stories

In addition, if you are so inclined, you can set up a blog on Petaluma 360. (You too can go slightly crazy navigating the blogging system as I am doing in preparing this article)

Finally, I have also noted that  space is frequently provided in the paper for people to write their own guest columns stating their position in response to a column or editorial.

Notwithstanding the above, I do, however, have a few suggestions for management:

  • Publish your policy and practices regarding news stories and editorials, their creation and editing.
  • Consider setting up some kind of Citizen Advisory Committee to provide a regular feedback channel.
  • Sign the editorials