Saturday, November 28, 2009


Years ago we saw the Oasis Camel Dairy on Huell Howser's TV show, "California's Gold." We've wanted to go there ever since, and last weekend, we finally made the 2.5 hour drive to Ramona (not far from Julian)--what a treat!

The camel dairy is located on 34 acres of rolling pastureland. It's run by Gil and Nancy Riegler. That's Nancy in the green shirt in the photo above. The Rieglers have over 20 camels, all dromedaries (the one-humped variety). At this time they use the camel milk to make soap; they plan to sell the milk for human consumption at some point in the future.

The amazing thing about the camels is how intelligent, sensitive, and friendly they are. Seems like they have a bad reputation, but in fact, they behave like giant puppies. They lined up at at the fence to be petted and couldn't get enough.

This mother, named Tula, stayed close to the fence while Gil talked to us about her and her baby, Storm, who romped all over the corral.

There's one kind of camel that needs to be handled with kid gloves: an uncastrated male like this one, named Flash. According to Gil, they're extremely unpredictable--"Never turn your back on a bull camel," he says. Flash made constant gurgling noises--he sounded like the mud pots at Yellowstone--and certainly could have spit, bit, or kicked at the slightest provocation.

Along with the camels, the Rieglers have a whole barnyard of other animals. Here's Bill with a donkey. The pot-bellied pig is 14 years old and named Byron (thanks to Bill for Byron's photo). The Rieglers raise exotic turkeys (for racing!) and keep many other exotic birds as well--Nancy does an exotic bird show.

The last photos show Bill and me with Clyde. To learn more about the Oasis Camel Dairy and to order camel milk soap online, click here.

Just to round out the camel experience, here's a camel poem I wrote years ago after Bill and I ate at The Brambles Restaurant in Cambria. The poem tells the story--enjoy!

Camels at The Brambles
(Cambria, California)

Someone called this rambling restaurant home,
once, but now it’s a five-star steakhouse
where dozens of diners cluster on Saturday nights.
Promised a spot by the fire, we are taken instead
to a corner booth, surely unchanged in forty-five years—
worn red upholstery, torn wallpaper, a faint glow
from a battery-operated lamp—and over our heads,
two faded etchings: a gypsy dancing in the marketplace,
toes barely touching the ground, as amorous Arabs look on;
and camels bending to drink at a palm-fringed oasis.
One camel’s bundle resembles a peacock’s fan.
We’re becoming unmoored when our waiter, Lawrence,
swoops up. This is my favorite booth, he announces.
I just want to put curtains on it. We agree—
not only curtains, but pillows and a hookah
would make it fit for a desert prince and his princess.
We celebrate our birthdays with Cabernet, surf and turf.
For dessert, Lawrence brings English trifle, two candles
mounting a peak of whipped cream. Back at the hotel,
we watch Peter O’Toole cross the dunes and declare,
Nothing is written. Choose your own destiny
and ride it like a camel, loose-lipped and free.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pyrate Days--Arrrgh!

Last weekend we went to Pyrate Days, which turned out to be great fun for the extravagant costumes, pirate paraphernalia, pirate bands, and more. (The event was a fundraiser for the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Foundation.)

This fellow spent the afternoon "walking the plank."

The highlight of the day was the Pirate Battle, where two groups of pirates fought over the contents of this treasure chest.

They used cannons and pistols with real gunpowder! The explosions were deafening!

Shortly after this picture was taken, this female pirate bit the dust.

The band There Be Pirates did original takes on ballads like "High Barbary."

Turns out "Arrgh!" is the pirates' favorite expression. It comes in handy just about any time!

Thanks to Bill for all the photos in this post.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Geology Tour Road

One of our favorite places in Joshua Tree National Park is the Geology Tour Road. It's an 18-mile, four-wheel drive route with a host of interesting geological and manmade features. This first photo shows Malapai Hill, a striking black basalt outcropping.

The Towers of Uncertainty are visible in the background--they're a group of rock formations popular with climbers. At the time this picture was taken (June of this year) the towers were "closed"--we found out later it was because of the raptor (red-tailed hawk) nesting season.

The next three pictures were taken at Squaw Tank, a site once used by both Native Americans and cattlemen. Molten magma pushed through joints in the rock to form the band you see in the photo above.

Bill and our friend Timothy explore the dam, which was built by cattlemen in the early 1900s to collect rainwater. The area was used by Native Americans for around 1,000 years--water pooled in natural "tanks" here, and there are mortreros in the rocks.

BTW: The light-colored rocks are known as monzogranite and date back 85 million years. There is also gneiss (pronounced "nice") along the tour road that dates back 1.7 billion years!

At one point, sharp-eyed Bill suddenly stopped the car. Turns out he had spotted a large lizard right in the road. We all got out for a look at this long-nosed leopard lizard. He let us get quite close before he finally dashed away, inspiring the following poem.

The Stand

The driver stops at the body,
then backs up. Four pairs of feet
exit the vehicle. Faced with odds
that would dwarf a lesser creature,
the leopard lizard stands fast
on warm spring earth.
Colors of sand and scrub
secure her desert camouflage,
strung with rusty patches—
the pollen of mating season.
Flawless from long nose
to long tail, with splayed feet
and the legs of a sprinter,
the lizard stays rooted
until a sneaker kicks up dust.
Then she turns trickster,
snapped into creosote flats
below metamorphic rocks.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bill at 29 Palms Gallery

The closing weekend of the Hwy. 62 Studio Tours included the opening of a juried show at the 29 Palms Art Gallery. Bill won third place for his photograph of a shore bird titled "Intent." Yay Bill!

We spent the weekend tooling around artist studios in Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, and Wonder Valley with our friends Timothy and Judy Hearsum, also formerly of Santa Barbara. Our favorite acquisitions were these ceramic pieces by Anahita King. The teapot is the stuff fairy tales are made of!

This week a coyote has been coming to drink at the water dish just outside the dining room window. He was not too shy about it, as you can see here. Usually we just have bunnies and birds...though the larger animals are definitely catching on. In the past couple of weeks I've seen a hawk in a tree nearby.

I'll leave you with a couple of sunset views from our backyard. Fall seems to be a great time for spectacular sunsets. Tonight we'll be watching for the space station as it passes overhead around 5:45 pm!