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