SUNOLIANS HAVE BEEN TRAVELING here and
there for summer fun, including this columnist. It's good to
be back in Sunol after an odyssey that included six states,
four of my favorite females, and the pleasure of meeting many
wonderful people along the way. There was only one cancelled
flight, one major storm, and one broken camera, so I think it
went really well. Hey, I spent a week in a tiny dorm room with
my sister-in-law and we came out even better friends than when
we went in - I call that vacation perfection.
Since I've been back, I've been catching up on the travels
enjoyed by others this summer. Solveig Shearer sent me a wonderful
account of her recent trip to Tahoe that I wish I could include
in its entirety - she's a fine writer and gardening enthusiast
and can wax poetic with the best of 'em. She and her husband
Bill visited their former Sunol neighbors Elly and Ron Stickney
for their "annual fix of high-mountain gardening and outdoor
Their activities included a tour of eight private gardens,
sponsored by the Lake of the Sky Garden Club (www.lake-of-the-sky.org),
which according to Solveig "ran the gamut from a little
1919 log cabin with vegetable garden to a .com extravaganza
compound that included a ground-level asphalt elevator to an
underground garage of 30 autos."
There weren't many elements in that particular garden that
the Shearers could bring back to try in their Sunol garden,
Solveig wrote, "as we can't imagine bringing in 13,000
yards of sand to create a beach or hoisting in 160 tons of boulders
to set about here and there." More scaled to the Sunol
lifestyle was "a modern log cabin with a wrap-around porch
that had suggestions for our garden, like baskets of pinecones
and whimsical touches of statuary and signage."
Things were not exactly quiet at the Shearer's home in Kilkare
Woods during their absence, thanks to a natural phenomenon that
occurs here given certain weather conditions. Ever seen an oak
tree explode? When we have late rains and a cool June, as Solveig
explained, the trees absorb a lot of moisture. Top that off
with the soaring temperatures in the second half of July and
it's time to duck and cover - several oak trees in the canyon
cracked from the pressure. This scientific wonder made quite
an impact on Solveig and Bill's future gardening projects, when
two huge oaks came crashing down from above their greenhouse,
totaling engulfing it.
"Neighbors looked up to see clouds of gray rolling down
our hill and over our bridge. Our responsible and savvy neighbors
turned off the water to the burst pipe and then contacted both
our son Zachary in Castro Valley and us on our garden tour."
A phone conversation with Zachary informed Solveig and Bill
that he had gotten the electricity to the greenhouse turned
off without turning off the refrigerator, a grace note, indeed,
but what of the damage?
"There is no way I can describe this to you," Zachary
told his parents. "You have to see it. I can tell you which
trees fell, but you won't be able to imagine it until you see
it. I can't believe the greenhouse is still standing after tons
of tree whacked it." Since Bill built that structure, he
has reason to be proud.
"All the way home we were thankful that we were out gaping
at other people's gardens rather than working in our own,"
Solveig wrote, and then she assessed the "ups and the downs
of it all. On the up side, we have a whole new patch of sky,
and on the down side, we don't want more July sun. On the down
side, we haven't finished cleaning up from our December flood,
and on the up side, this forces us to clean up our December
flood to make way for tons of wood to split."
Sunol gardeners have to be philosophers, you know, and it is
certainly a pleasure to receive a gardening tale from such a
stellar storyteller as Solveig.