Friday, March 29, 2013

Good News To Report From the Orchard!

Spring has brought some very good news to our Heritage Apricot Orcard. Do you notice anything missing?

It has been almost a year since the City of Los Altos did an extensive telephone survey of residents and discovered there was no support at all for a project that would plow under our beloved Heritage Apricot Orchard and pave it over to build a bigger civic complex.

We even had an election in November that replaced two of the pro-development gang on the council (they were term-limited out, praise be. The third is out at the end of this year.)  Each week, I drove by city hall, hoping that awful sign had been taken down.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Remembering William Ashley Chapman: December 22, 1919--March 26, 2010

Half Moon Bay on a late Saturday aftenoon in about 1955. Even in the summer the Pacific is really cold and my Dad is probably trying to warm me up.

It was three years ago today that my father died. The days around his death were the hardest of my life: he was in a coma and I could no longer comfort him. But I was able to spend the last year of his life helping him. That was a blessing and a privilege and I am thankful every day for that time.

As he lay dying, I knew in my heart it was only a sad time for me. He was 90 years old and very ill. My mother had died a few months before. But I was selfish and wanted him to stay a little longer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apricot Liqueur From Clara Caldwell

Apricot harvest at Gene Bays' orchard near Patterson, California, last summer.  ©Photo by Robin Chapman

What do you do with all your extra dried apricots, when you've tired of using them for healthy, tasty snacks? There is an alternative that several members of my family enjoy. And it comes from a recipe given to our mother by Mrs. Clara Caldwell, the woman who lived up the street from us a long time ago. Mrs. Caldwell passed away many years ago: but she lives on in this lively recipe.

You'll learn more about the Colonel and Mrs. Caldwell in the recipe chapter of my book, California Apricots: the Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley. Meanwhile: 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wild Times in the Old West: a True Story

My great grandfather was a cow puncher, a cattle agent, and a sheriff in the area around Bozeman, Montana, at the turn of the twentieth century. I've told this story before on my blog, but it is a story worth telling more than once, and it was time for an update:

Frank Latta, one time Montana lawman, in the autumn of his years. He lost his left eye in an accident, but he could track better than most men anyway. That star sapphire he's wearing now belongs to my Uncle Jack. The photo, taken by a photographer during the Depression, is in the Library of Congress archives. 

I never knew my great grandfather Frank Latta of Bozeman, Montana. But, after my parents passed away in 2010, I came across a picture of him in my mother's things that I had never seen. The photo, which is attached later to this piece, helps to explain a key element of a story that is often told about my great grandfather: how he helped to capture a notorious railroad extortionist in 1903.

Several men died at the hands of the bad man. But luck--and a new hat--helped my great grandfather live to recount the story.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Don't Want to Alarm You, But ...

The view from the Mount of Olives looking over the Old City of Jerusalem. Is that a bird? A plane? 

When the end comes, I hope I don't have to live on canned beans. I don't mind beans. But the canned ones are very high in sodium and if that is all I have to live on, come the Appocalypse, I'm bound to puff up and look really bad in my FB photographs. 

Seriously, though, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that something unpleasant is building to a crescendo in the Middle East. I know, I know, something is always exploding in the region that invented Armageddon; but this time it could be a doozy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celtic Design: A Story for Saint Patrick's Day

Detail on a building in Dublin.

On this St. Patrick's Day, when everyone in America feels kin with the Irish, it is worthwhile to raise our glasses--in this case our field glasses--to look across the Atlantic at the curious and creative Celts.

Ireland is at present trying to recover from the crash that followed its brief years of economic success in which it was known, with the aid of the European Union, as the Celtic Tiger. The Irish, used to being beleaguered, seem to be handling it all with a shrug. They've gone back to work--as they always have.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Man of Ideas and a Safer World

This fellow was born more than a century ago. Not born to a wealthy family. Didn't get the chance to go to a fancy school. And he changed the world.

The morning paper says "Pentagon to deploy missile interceptors on West Coast ... to warn China to rein in North Korea." What an amazing thing that is. Even more amazing, is that we have a former California governor, who became President of the United States, to thank for this.

Ronald Reagan wasn't an engineer or a scientist. Ronald Reagan's missile shield was a creative concept that came from his ability to look at old things in a new way. People of big ideas do not all come from the Ivy League. Some come from humble little towns in Illinois.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Harrowing Kidnapping of a Reporter in Syria

Vanity Fair's article by Richard Engel can be found in the April 2013 edition.

I've just read a piece by NBC's Richard Engel, who, with his entire news crew, was kidnapped by terrorists in Syria, December 2012. Thanks to luck and some mysterious help from a group of men whom Engel does not (exactly) identify, everybody got out five days later.

Engel knows the Middle East, speaks Arabic, and has worked in Beruit and Baghdad. I take nothing away from his expertise nor his bravery. Doing the job he has been doing with nothing more than a reporter's notepad as protection, is either courageous or foolish. Probably a lot of both.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blossom Time is Publication Time!

Here's a vintage postcard from a UK company showing an apricot tree blooming in Egypt. The Egyptians call the apricot "mish-mish" and, because the apricot seems to take a long time ripening, they have a saying: "Tomorrow. When there are apricots." It is like saying, "Don't hold your breath!"
© Robin Chapman and The History Press

New Publication Date for
California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley 
by Robin Chapman
On sale April 16, 2013

Lots of things cooking this week with my upcoming book. Andy Mariani of Andy's Orchard in Morgan Hill has asked me to do a booksigning at his "apricot tasting" event on July 6, 2013. I rarely know what I am going to do the day after tomorrow, but I've got this event on my calendar! Andy is from the legendary Santa Clara Valley orchard family, and gave me some great quotes for the book.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An "Evening" With Van Cliburn in LA

An ad in TV Guide for "Evening."

Life being short, I spend as little time as possible looking back. It is only on rare occasions that I even recount the adventures that came to me because of my career in television. This week, reading about the funeral of the great pianist Van Cliburn, reminded me of one of those occasions worth remembering.

It was a night in Los Angeles, and it never would have happened but for the minor celebrity that comes to those of us who've been on the air in local television news. I can't complain: it got me a seat at the Hollywood Bowl for a rare, live performance of a legendary talent.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Apricot Book Has Glam Cover!

Just wanted you to see the cover of my book, which will be published by the History Press in about six weeks. If you go to Amazon and type in the book's name, you'll be able to pre-order it at a discount.

Things are moving along very quickly at the History Press re my upcoming book on the apricot orchards of Silicon Valley. I have the galleys in my hands now and this is my first glimpse of the cover.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jays and the Mysteries of Language

My friend Ms. Gimpy still has some instability on her right leg.

When I first noticed, two years ago, that one of the Jays in my garden was in distress with a broken leg, I gave her the name Ms. Gimpy. I tried to give her special protection when she would come to me for bird seed and peanuts: she would get exhausted standing on one leg and would collapse onto her stomach when she ate. This made her vulnerable to predators, so I took care to keep them away.