Ardenwood Historic Farm…

We recently began taking monthly family fieldtrips. Our second fun family fieldtrip adventure was a visit to Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, California.

Photo © Richard D. LeCour

In 1849, George Washington Patterson, along with 19 of his closest business associates formed a company to take advantage of the California Gold Rush. They set sail from New England, bound for the Gulf of Mexico. From there, they walked the rest of the way towards the promise of untold riches to be found in the Sierra Foothills. The arduous journey lasted six months.

After finding sparse numbers of nuggets in Placerville in a year and a half of near-fruitless mining, George realized that gold was not the real source of wealth in California — it was agriculture. He found work on farms near Mission San Jose that paid a then astounding $50 per month for farm labor, the result of the lack of an available labor source due to the fickle siren call of the quest for gold. Within two years he had saved enough money to purchase 200 acres of land, almost the same 200 acres on which the Ardenwood Historic Farm sits today. A little more than two decades later, he was one of the wealthiest, most well-respected men in the valley, owning 6,000 acres of prime land.

When he built the first two-room house on his property, he contracted a friend to build it for him. That friend had a daughter, Clara, that attended Oakland High School. Three years after becoming one of the high school’s esteemed graduates from the Class of 1874, she became Mrs. Clara Patterson, a 21-year-old wife to the 54-year-old farming magnate.

The socialite Clara turned Ardenwood, their name for the land, taken from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, into an opulent setting for their newly remodeled Victorian mansion. Peacocks and other exotics freely roamed the grounds, a symbol the equivalent of today’s multiple Mercedes, BMWs, or Hummers parked in the driveway, a flagrant display of wealth.

Today, the East Bay Regional Park District runs Ardenwood Historic Farm much the way it was 100 years ago — draft horses are still used to pull wagons, plows, and railcars; the same types of crops George Patterson grew are grown today; informative and entertaining guides, naturalists, and docents wander the area in period costumes; peacocks still cross your path.

The year-long calendar includes such unlikely and unusual events as “Gourd Crafting” and “Morning Chores in the Vegetable Garden”. When was the last time you participated in a potato sack race or a potato spoon race? Ardenwood is a fascinating glimpse into life in the Bay Area over a century ago.

A Close Call?

On April 16, I tried to find a geocache called Little Liz in Fremont, California.

I couldn’t find it. Well, less of a “couldn’t find it” and more of a “gave up before I could get there” kind of cache. Even if the ground had not been covered in up to a foot of unpassable water in some places, I still wouldn’t have gotten it, methinks. Parking resonably nearby, I headed over towards the general cache area and passed the wooden gazebo at the beginning. I noticed a guy sitting on his bike on the wooden ramp leading up to the gazebo; the only reason I noticed him was that there was a ”no bicycles” sign over his head and I thought it was pretty humorous. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken a photo.

When I headed down the mulchy trail, my sixth sense kept kicking in and I noticed the aforementioed guy following me on his bike. Ordinarily, it’s not very unusual to see hikers and bikers together on the same trails, but he was keeping my same pace and staying back about 200 feet or so. When I stopped at several trail markers to pretend to look around and enjoy the scenery, he stopped his bike and sat still each time. When I continued moving on, he moved, too. At the end of the Muskrat Trail, it takes a sharp left and becomes Willow Trail. About 300 feet down Willow, I stopped and looked over my shoulder. He stopped at the trail junction and just stared at me while still sitting on his bike. I stood there for quite some time, looking around (while still keeping an eye on him) to see if I could find something that could be considered a weapon. The nearby stones were too small, and the sticks were too soft after the heavy soaking from the recent rain.

I was much more worried about going further into the woods with this guy apparently stalking me, so it took a few moments of planning and decision-making to figure out my next moves. I knew, having looked at my GPS, that the cache was further down Willow Trail and a few hundred feet to the left, so I thought I could lose him quickly and unseen. I continued on down Willow Trail and it curved slightly. Once he was out of sight, I ran down the trail to the upcoming left turn, heading in about 20 feet. Here the mud and water were so thick that I considered the trail unpassable at that point. I gave up quickly. I turned around, headed back down Willow Trail, and saw him coming my way. He turned around and went back the way we’d both come. He disappeared much quicker than I would have thought since I knew where the righthand turn onto Muskrat was. I was as tense and coiled as a mountain lion as I walked back down the path. At a non-official mini trail that branched west off of Willow, I spied him about 30 feet away through the branches. He was just standing there looking at me. Needless to say, I arrived back at my car very quickly thereafter — according to my GPS, my speed on the way out averaged 3 mph, on the way back it reached 5.7 mph. I chalked this cache off as one I will never again attempt, certainly not without companions in number.

I received an email today from the cache owner, known as MaxEntropy:

“Sit down, you’re about to be freaked out. I’m the cache owner of Little Liz, the cache where you were stalked through the little woods in Fremont. That woods is known as Stiver’s Lagoon… Today, on the news, I saw that a body was found in Stiver’s Lagoon. Your log describes an extremely creepy incident and it may be important if this is a murder case. I’m going to send your log to the Fremont police if it turns out to be murder and naturally, they’ll want to talk to you. You might want to call them first. That’s all that I know. I’ll keep you posted.”

The Argus Online newspaper reported the following excerpted story:

“A man walking his dog Tuesday afternoon [May 13] found a body among the cattails and tules in a shallow creek near Stivers Lagoon. Brandon Martinez, 21, said he was walking his boxer, Jack, about 2:20 p.m. when the dog pulled him toward a gazebo just south of Lake Elizabeth in Central Park… It was ‘in sort of a fetal position,’ clad in jeans and a long-sleeve black sweatshirt and covered with flies, Martinez said. He said it looked as if it had been there ‘a long time.’ Martinez said it looked as if someone tried to cover the body with surrounding vegetation… The Alameda County Coroner’s Office arrived about 4:30 p.m. and retrieved the body. Police could not confirm whether the body was that of a male or female.”

Always trust your instincts.

The One Ring

Image © Richard D. LeCour

A few months ago, I picked up the latest version of Newtek’s LightWave 3D with the eventual goal of producing some movie-quality animation. But first, I had to reacquaint myself with some of the basics — starting with modeling, and not the fashion kind!

Having created some bouncing ball wire-frame animations, played around with some low-quality dice renderings, and subjected animated fabrics to exploding rubber balls, I decided that the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings would be a fun first real project to render.

I’m very happy with the shape and texture of the ring, and the fiery background was a challenge the results of which are pretty darn good. I’m not totally thrilled about the quality of the elvish lettering, though; it’s a bit jagged in places, but it’ll have to do. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything.

I did add the copyright notice in the bottom right-hand corner with Photoshop. Other than that, no other modifications were done outside of LightWave. It’s pure LightWave, baby!

Wallpaper sizes: 800×600 | 1024×768 | 1152×864 | 1280×1024

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