• Last modified 1468 days ago (July 16, 2015)


Another Day in the Country

Bye-bye to the bag

© Another Day in the Country

When I had some free time recently in Napa Valley, I drove around the little town of St. Helena, which used to be common turf for me.

I was surprised to discover very few lawns left in town and even fewer of them green. I left a lush and very green lawn in Ramona — a happy-camper lawn with all that rain we had in May and all the fertilizer I gave it in April and more rain in June.

When my plane landed in Oakland, I could see brown hills.

I’ve always loved the golden hills of northern California. My mother used to come down to visit once in a while from Oregon and moan at all the summer brown because, of course, Oregon was wet and green.

This time I looked at all that brown grass with different eyes because California is experiencing a rather severe drought. Water restriction is in place, and that’s why you don’t see very many green lawns.

Green grass is literally so scarce that when you see a lush expanse of green lawn you look askance.

“Where are they getting that water?” you mutter to whoever is standing near.

It’s almost a criminal act to water your lawn. Watering in the daytime is also a no-no.

When I saw a sprinkler running at the elementary school, my son-in-law said, ‘They aren’t supposed to be doing that during the day!’”

There are other changes in the Napa Valley. There are no more brown bags. California always has led the way on much needed reforms, although it was behind Oregon in the “right to die” campaign. California has, in my book, a brave and intrepid governor in Jerry Brown. He’s one of the good guys, and he’s willing to try things. So, there is water restriction and brown paper bags (no pun intended) are going bye-bye in California.

Remember how it used to be the sign that you’d paid for something, to receive it in a bag? No more. I walked in and bought a thank-you card, and once I paid, the lady went on to next customer.

“Can I get a bag for this?” I asked.

You know, bags meant you paid and bags kept the card clean, etc.

She said, “Bags are 10 cents.”

Of course, being new kid on this new block, I said, “What? You’re kidding.”

“No,” she said.

Luckily she smiled. No more free bags. You either bring your own or you pay for a bag. I think they call it a paper bag tax! It’s to raise awareness. It worked. I am now very aware. Luckily I brought along a huge mesh bag in my suitcase instead of a purse.

I drove up and down the streets of St. Helena, getting reacquainted with a town I’d once known well — very few lawns but still so beautiful. People have become creative with native plants, olive trees, hardy bushes, even little vineyards in their yards. There are decorative fences, big rocks, pots. If you hadn’t seen straight, tidy lawns before, you’d think this was the way it had always been — should have been, in fact.

My yard in California is a “country yard” already. We started out 45 years ago on a rocky hill with very little dirt, so our lawn area always has been the size of a postage stamp. Literally it’s about 4 feet by 8 feet, like a piece of plywood.

There used to be a couple of more feet, long ago, but they went by the wayside when the chief gardener at the time moved away to Kansas. The gardener who has held sway since I’ve been in Kansas, uses pots instead of plots. They are beautiful, I wish I could show you a picture.

While rural water goes on summer rates in Kansas, we’re on year-round rates in California, and I save every dribble. You didn’t drink all your water? Put it in the pots. You’re taking a shower? Make it quick. Is that your bathwater? I say only to my daughter, Mrs. Clean, let me use it when you’re done.

Conserving water always was the country way for our ancestors, and now we’re having to learn to do it, too, on another day in the country.

Last modified July 16, 2015